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This is the story, told against the background of the 
author's own university, of women's struggle for 
equal opportunity in the field of scholarship and 
intellectual achievement No recent book has been 
written on this subject with Oxford as its scene. 

The date October i3th, 1959 marked the Both 
anniversary of the establishment of women's 
colleges at Oxford. This book covers approx- 
imately a century, beginning with the liberal 
reforms at the University after 1850 which made 
possible the foundation of women's colleges, and 
ending with the abolition of the restrictions on the 
number of women undergraduates in 1957, ^d the 
altered status of the women's "societies" to that of 
full colleges in 1959. It will be news to many that 
their attainment of equal status has been so recent, 
in spite of the fact that Oxford women students 
became eligible for degrees 27 years before the 
women at Cambridge. 

This is a "success story" of an unusual type, which 
will appeal to every reader who is interested in the 
battles of the mind. The author makes full and 
entertaining use of the humorous episodes arising 
from the early prejudices which hampered (though 
not for long) the struggle for the degree. Her book 
is also a portrait gallery of famous women, ranging 
from such picturesque early Principals as Dame 
Elizabeth Wordsworth and Miss Anne Moberly, 
and such gifted 19th-century students as Eleanor 
Rathbone and Maude Royden, to the many 
outstanding younger figures in present-day 
scholarship, literature, education, broadcasting, 
and politics. 


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A Fragment of History 


With eight plates in half-tone 


First published in the United States of America 1960 
Vera Brittain 1960 

Composed in Linotype Granjon type and printed by 
Western Printing Services Ltd, Bristol 

Made in Great Britain 

In Grateful Memory of 


Pioneer and Scholar 

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*"Athene -went away to Olympus where evermore~^they 
say the seat of the Gods stays sure; for the winds shake 
it not, nor is it wetted by rain nor approached by any 
snow. All around stretches the cloudless firmament, and 
a white glory of sunlight is diffused about its walls." 

Trans. T. E. Lawrence 



assistance: the late Professor Gilbert Murray, O.M.; Miss E. E. S. 
Procter, Principal, St Hugh's College; Miss Kathleen Major, Prin- 
cipal, St Hilda's College; Lady Ogilvie, Principal, St Anne's College; 
Miss J. de L. Mann, former Principal, St Hilda's College; Miss 
C. M. E. Burrows, former Principal, St Hilda's College, and the 
Society of Oxford Home Students; 1 Miss Kathleen Lea, Vice- 
Principal, Lady Margaret Hall; Lady (Laura Margaret) Hall, Fellow, 
Tutor, and University Lecturer in Economics, Somerville College; 
Miss Ruth Garstang, Fellow and Bursar, Somerville College; Miss 
H. M. Bryant, Principal's Secretary, Somerville College; Miss M. J. 
Hands, Assistant Bursar, Somerville College; Miss Ruth Buder, for- 
merly Vice-Principal, Society of Oxford Home Students (now St 
Anne's College); Miss Anne Dreydel, Tutor, St Anne's College; 
Miss Elsie Lemon, Editor, St Hugh's College Chronicle; Miss Doris 
Fone, Oxford University Appointments Committee; Mr Eric Gillett; 
Miss Vera Douie, the Fawcett Library, Westminster; Miss M. Bryan, 
Secretary, Oxford High School; Mrs Brigitte Pring-Mill and Mrs 
Jennifer Brittain-Catlin, formerly at Lady Margaret Hall; the staffs 
at the Bodleian Library and the British Museum. 

I am particularly grateful to Mrs D. L. Hobman, formerly at St 
Hilda's College, and to Professor George Catlin, formerly at New 
College, for reading and criticizing the typescript; to the successive 
Editors of the Oxford Magazine for much useful material; and to 
those responsible for the following private histories of the women's 
colleges; A Short History of Lady Margaret Hall, 18791923, by 
Gemma Bailey (editor); Somerville College, / #79 1921, by Muriel 
St Clare Byrne and Catherine Hope Mansfield; A Somervillian 
Loo\s Bac\j by Vera Farnell (1948); The Society of Oxford Home 
Students: Retrospects and Recollections y 1 5791921, edited by Ruth 
F. Butler and M. H. Prichard; A History of St Anne's Society, 

1 Miss Burrows died at Oxford on September^ 10, 1959, aged eighty-seven. 


1927-1946, by Ruth F. Butler, with Supplement 19461953, by 
M. D. R. Leys. 

I am indebted to Miss Mildred Hartley, Fellow, Tutor, and 
University Lecturer in Classics, Somerville College, for much o the 
background information on Hilda Lockhart Lorimer contained in 
her obituary articles in the Oxford Magazine and the Somerville 
College Report and Supplement > 1954; to Mr R. Duncan Fairn for 
material on Margery Fry in an article published by The Friend on 
May 2, 1958; and to the Assistant Librarian, Library of the Society 
of Friends, for additional information about the Fry family. 

None of those who have kindly helped me is responsible for the 
use made of the information. In the first half of the period under 
review, the perspective of time has sharply defined a few outstanding 
individuals; in the second half, and especially during the past two 
decades, the selection of significant figures has been much more 
difficult. In any case I owe apologies to many distinguished women 
whose names and careers have perforce been omitted owing to 
pressure on space. 


September 1956 October 1959 


Definition of some Terms used at Oxford 13 

Foreword 16 

Prelude A Forerunner 18 

Chapter i . The Beginning of Modern Oxford (1850-60) 21 

2. Women Become Aware (1860-75) 30 

3. The Interlopers (1875-80) 49 

4. Unofficially Present (1880-90) 66 

5. Infiltration (1890-1900) 86 

6. Towards Recognition (1900 14) in 

7. Through War to Triumph (191421) 136 

8. The Pendulum Swings (1921-30) 158 

9. Time of Testing (1930-45) 181 
10. A Human Society (1945 and after) 204 

Epilogue The Future ? 239 

Appendix i . The Relationship between Classes in Schools 

and Subsequent Careers 241 

Appendix 2. Women Guest Speakers at the Oxford Union 255 

Appendix 3 . Some Distinguished Unacademic Women 
associated with Oxford Colleges and the 

University 258 

Bibliography 261 

Index 263 


General View of Oxford 32 

Elizabeth Wordsworth 33 

Bertha Johnson (Mrs Arthur Johnson) 33 

Annie M. A. H. Rogers 33 

Madeleine Shaw Lefevre 48 

Charlotte Anne Elizabeth Moberly 48 

Dorothea Beale 48 

Lady Margaret Hall 49 

Somerville College 144 

St Hugh's College 145 

St Hilda's College 160 

St Anne's College 161 

Definition of some Terms used at Oxford 

A.E.W. The Association for the Education of Women (1879-1921). 

Aegrotat. A special degree granted to a candidate for Final Schools who 
has been prevented by illness from taking the examination. 

Ashmolean. The oldest museum in Britain, opened at Oxford in 1683 to 
house the collections made by Elias Ashmole and John Tradescant. 

Bodleian. The University Library, established at Oxford by Sir Thomas 
Bodley between 1598 and 1602. It includes an earlier library collected by 
Duke Humphrey of Gloucester. 

'Bulldogs. 9 The Proctors' attendants who accompany them on their 
occasional patrols. 

Chancellor. The official head of the university, elected for life by Con- 
vocation. Usually an Elder Statesman. 

College. An autonomous body within the university; a corporation estab- 
lished by royal charter, with the right to legislate for itself subject in 
some matters to the consent of the Queen in Council, and of the 

Congregation, The assembly of "Regent Masters" who are members of 
Convocation and take an active part as teachers or administrators in the 
work of the university. About 984 in number. 

Convocation (Magna Congregatio). The main 'Parliament' of the uni- 
versity, of which all Oxford men and women are members who have 
taken their M.A. degree and kept their names on the books of their 
college. 1 About 15,360 in number. 

Decree. An authoritative order made by an established body or court 
e.g., Decree of Convocation. 

Degree. The status conferred by the university upon its fully qualified 
graduates, involving recognition and membership. 

Delegacy. The organization or committee responsible for a particular 
department of University life e.g., the University Delegacy for Lodg- 

Divinity Moderations ^Divvers"). A short formal examination in Scrip- 
ture, once obligatory for all students, but now abolished. 

l lts functions are to receive the financial accounts and certain reports, select 
the Chancellor, confer honorary degrees and degrees by diploma, and elect the 
Professor of Poetry. * 


Eights Wee\. A festival week in the Trinity (Summer) term, given up 
to bumping races on the river between the crews of the men's 

Enctenia (literally "in common"). An annual degree-giving ceremony 
held at the end of the Trinity term. 

Faculty. The teachers in any subject or group of subjects of university 
study e.g., the Faculty of Arts. 

Fellow. A member of the governing body of a college. 

"Greats" Popular name for "Literae Humaniores" (Philosophy and 
Ancient History), the Final examination in Classics. 

Hebdomadal Council. The chief policy-forming committee or 'cabinet' of 
the university, elected by Congregation and consisting of eighteen mem- 
bers. Meets every Monday of term, with the Vice-Chancellor as Chair- 
man and the Registrar as Secretary. 

History Previous. Preliminary pass-examination formerly read by first- 
year students of History. Now popularly called "History Prelims." 

Honour (Classical) Moderations. The first of the two Honours examina- 
tions taken by students of Classics. "Mods." and "Greats" together 
make a four-year course. 

Incorporation. The act of becoming a legal entity or corporation. 

Matriculation. The ceremony which admits a man or woman to member- 
ship of the university. 

Michaelmas, Hilary, Trinity. The names used for the Autumn, Spring, 
and Summer terms. 

Newdigate, The. Prize for English verse (value 21) founded by Sir 
Roger Newdigate (1776-1805), open to undergraduates who have not 
exceeded four years from Matriculation. The poem must not exceed 
300 lines. 

Pass Moderations. The preliminary pass examination formerly taken by 
first-year students of English and Modern Languages. Sometimes taken 
by students of Classics instead of Honour Moderations. 

Preamble. The introductory part of a statute, beginning with the word 
"Whereas," which states the reasons and intentions of the act. 

Principal, Dean, Censor (St Catherine's), Master, President, Provost, 
Rector, Warden. Different names used, according to tradition, for the 
head of a college. So far Oxford women have always used the term 
'Principal. 1 

Proctors. The two officials responsible for university discipline. 

Promulgate. To announce or publish a statute. 

Radcliffe Camera. Circular library built by James Gibbs. Named after 
eighteenth-century physician Dr John Radcliffe, who left money to 
found a "physic library," and also gave his name to the Radcliffe 

Responsions. Once the most usual of several examinations admitting 


students taking a degree course to the university (as distinct from a 
college entrance examination). The General Certificate o Education 
now exempts candidates from Responsions. 

School. A particular subject of study .g. y the School of Modern History. 

"Schools" Popular name for the Final examination taken by under- 
graduates before going down. 

Sheldonian Theatre. The university theatre, named after Archbishop 
Sheldon and built by Christopher Wren, where degrees are conferred. 

Statute. A law or decree of the university or of a college. 

Sub-fuse (literally "rather dark**). The sober suit or dress worn by 
members of the university on formal occasions. 

Taylorian. The Taylor Institute built in 1839-45 for the study and teach- 
ing of Modern Languages. 

University, The. Independent self-governing body in which the effective 
authority is in the hands of Congregation. 

Vice-chancellor. The Chancellor's representative, resident within the 
university, who actually does his work. According to the letter of the 
Statutes, he is appointed annually by the Chancellor from among the 
heads of colleges without restriction of choice, but in actual practice the 
heads hold the office in rotation, according to seniority as heads, for 
two years at a time. Women Principals of colleges first became eligible 
for this office in 1959. 

Visitor. An eminent person who, under the constitution of a college, in- 
spects it for purposes of discipline, either periodically by routine or by 
special invitation. 

Viva voce. The oral examination which follows a few weeks after all 
Second Public Examinations (/.<?., Finals) in Arts subjects. This 
is nominal, or may even be omitted, when a candidate's class is certain. 
It becomes more rigorous for those on the borderline between two 



So few people are interested in them, and their numbers are so 
small. The story o their struggle to obtain a foothold in Britain's 
oldest university is anyhow, as one woman principal commented, a 
tale that is told. Oxford now opens its doors to a normal society 
drawn from both sexes. No one challenges women's right to share 
in its privileges, and only a negligible minority questions their 
equal status with men. 

Why rake the embers ? 

The answer is to be found in the timeless sparks of historical truth 
which those embers contain. The importance of women at Oxford 
(or at Cambridge, or any other university) becomes apparent when 
we realize that, until they established their claim to higher education, 
women, apart from a few isolated scholars, had not attempted to 
grasp the essential values and discipline of the life of learning. 

They were strangers to the integrity, as scholarship understands it, 
of facts, and to the knowledge and perception which put facts into 
perspective. The phrase "a right judgment in all things/* quoted by 
Helena Deneke in her biography of Grace Hadow, perhaps sums up 
the purpose which sends students of both sexes to the universities. 

The development of such an outlook by those capable of acquiring 
it is fundamental to the story and significance of women at Oxford, 
and has meant, in the full sense of the university's motto, their 
* ' illumination . ' * 

The pursuit and attainment of intellectual enlightenment cannot 
be judged by numerical tests. It represented the quintessence of the 
whole movement for women's emancipation, the contest for the 
equal citizenship of the mind. If there had been no more than 
twenty women at Oxford their story would justify a chronicle, as 
part of those expanding horizons of knowledge and imagination 
which are rightly the heritage of all human beings, whatever their 
race, nation, colour, class, or sex. 


Greatness is not the prerogative of any one category; it is neither 
masculine nor feminine, white nor black, European nor Asian. It 
embodies the highest attainable quality of mankind as such, and its 
standards are the possession of all who have shown their power to 
accept them. 

To-day no man or woman is excluded from the right to share in 
Oxford University's aspiration for itself and its scholars: "Dominus 
illuminatio mea." 

Prelude: A Forerunner 


Oxford, a girl of seventeen with bright, humorous eyes in a homely 
face successfully embarrassed the dignified examiners of Balliol 
College. She bore the somewhat unusual name of Annie Mary Anne 
Henley Rogers. 

Earlier that year Balliol and Worcester Colleges had offered exhi- 
bitions on the results of the Senior Local examinations, first opened 
to girls by Oxford in 1870. Annie Rogers, placed in the First Class 
of Junior candidates in 1871, sat for the Senior examination, and 
when the results were declared she headed the list. 

She had signed her name only with her characteristic initials, then 
less familiar in Oxford than they were later to become, and Mr C. 
Henry Daniel, of Worcester College, wrote to her father, a future 
eminent Professor of Political Economy named Thorold Rogers, on 
the assumption that "the person who heads the Local examination 
list" was a male member of his family. He asked the proud parent 
to convey to the successful candidate the offer of an exhibition at 
Worcester College. 

Thus, for the first time in history, the question of admitting 
women to Oxford University was raised. It was, of course, dropped 
as hurriedly as a red-hot coal, and, after some correspondence between 
the Vice-Chancellor and the Rogers family, Worcester College 
eventually awarded the exhibition to a boy who had been sixth on 
the list. But Balliol, a little shamefaced, made a presentation of 
books in place of the deserved exhibition "a good instance of a 
suppressed protasis," Annie Rogers wrote in her memoirs. 

Half a century afterwards, when she retired from her long life of 
academic teaching, Balliol still remembered her share in forestalling 
a chapter of Oxford history, and honoured her by a college dinner. 

"A.M.A.H.R.," as she signed her numerous articles in the Oxford 
Magazine, had been born at Oxford in 1856, two years earlier than 
Emily Penrose, her unofficial partner in the struggle for women's 


degrees. She spent her whole life in her native city and, in addition to 
her various posts at the women's colleges, made herself a consti- 
tutional specialist. She studied the University Statutes from A to Z 
and, unlike quite a few of their interpreters, thoroughly understood 

By the time that Oxford gave degrees to women soon after the 
First World War, Annie Rogers had become a familiar figure to 
generations of undergraduates. Usually clad in a long, dusty black 
coat, she walked or bicycled the city streets wearing the stout, low- 
heeled, square-toed shoes once characteristic of women dons but sel- 
dom observed to-day. She was still on the scene in 1937, and even then 
did not succumb to old age. Had not a street accident befallen her 
one evening in the rainy blackness of St Giles, she might well have 
lived to celebrate her centenary. 

Between the birth and death of Annie Rogers lies almost the whole 
story of women's acceptance by Oxford University. 

"There was only one reasonable conclusion to the success of a 
young lady in the Oxford Senior Locals of 1873," wrote Miss B. E. 
Gwyer in her memoir, 1 "and events moved inexorably towards it." 

In so far as the record of the women's decorous persistence has any 
fighting quality, Miss Rogers supplied it. By the outside world, to 
which Convocation, Congregation, University Delegacies, and the 
Hebdomadal Council, if realized as public bodies at all, are Eleu- 
sinian mysteries, she was, and is, totally unknown. Yet, through her 
brilliant brain, her indomitable if aggressive personality, and her 
single-minded devotion to a significant end, she qualifies for praise 
among "famous men." 

If the women at Oxford could be said to owe their triumph to any 
one individual, the credit is hers. She was their forerunner, their 
expert, their champion, and the symbol of their struggle. 

1 Published at the beginning of Degrees by Degrees (1938), Annie Rogers's post- 
humous book. 

Chapter i: The Beginning of Modern Oxford 



mediaeval city that It had been for centuries a small, semi-rural 
market town, dominated by a great, ancient, and exclusively mascu- 
line university. 

Yet to-day the bicycles which jostle the cars parked against its 
crowded pavements seem to be ridden as often by young women as 
by young men, and at some university lectures the female contingent 
exceeds the male. 

Women undergraduates do not in fact outnumber the men, for 
they still form only about one-sixth of the total student population. 
But this sixth, which means that women members of the university 
are no longer either inconspicuous or peculiar, seems to be as placidly 
taken for granted by their male contemporaries as the feminine spec- 
tators at a theatre or a football match. 

What has brought about this change in such a relatively short 
period of historical time, and through whom did it come? 

We shall find that those responsible for the first stages of a social 
transformation were quite unaware that it lay within the logic of the 
reforms which they were initiating. Nevertheless these reforms sub- 
sequently fitted, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, into the frame- 
work of a revolution which was already in progress outside the boun- 
daries of Oxford University. 

In 1850 Lord John Russell set up the first Royal Commission ever 
appointed to investigate the university's aims and practices. The 
labours of the Commissioners naturally encountered the passive 
resistance habitually offered by time-honoured institutions to the 
heralds of change, but their effect was to transform the man-created 
citadel of static theological and classical tradition into the developing 
modern university where Nonconformists, married Fellows, and 
eventually women were to take their place. 

From the beginning of the nineteenth century a demand had 
existed at Oxford for the removal of religious tests, but Convocation 


that comprehensive body with its inevitable proportion of opinion- 
ated backwoodsmen continued to emphasize their importance in 
securing "the venerable Fabric of our Constitution in Church and 

When Gladstone went up to Christ Church in 1828 the outlook 
and habits of the university were still mediaeval. Even Shelley, an 
undergraduate at University College seventeen years earlier, had 
failed to shake its poise with his revolutionary zeal. Change was none 
the less, in the air and could not be arrested, though the Tractarian 
Movement associated with the name of John Henry Newman 
had led in another direction. Political enthusiasm competed with 
religious reaction; Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform 
had preceded Tractarianism and the election of the Duke of Welling- 
ton as University Chancellor. 

From the thirteenth century the colleges founded at Oxford and 
Cambridge 1 to encourage classical studies and prepare men for the 
learned professions had gradually developed against the changing 
background provided by the Renaissance, the Reformation, the 
Puritan Revolution, and other cataclysmic epochs of European his- 
tory. The women's colleges, when they came, were thus totally differ- 
ent from the men's in origin and development; if they lacked the 
august heritage of the distant past, they also shared the freedom of 
the New World from hampering traditions and restrictive prejudices. 

In the middle of the nineteenth century Oxford was renewing its 
vitality after the stagnant, exclusive, and reactionary years of the 
eighteenth, but the Tractarian Movement, ousting with its violent 
controversies the competitive influences of German philosophy and 
the natural sciences, dominated the university from 1833 to 1845. The 
novels of Mrs Humphry Ward were later to recall the religious 
intensity of this mid- Victorian period, with its passionate concen- 
tration on the exact shade of individual belief. Emotions more 
reminiscent of the Thirty Years War on the Continent than of 
nineteenth-century Britain raged round these varieties of theological 

Tractarianism passed its peak when Newman entered the Church 
of Rome and Keble felt as if "the spring had gone out of his year." 

1 It is a somewhat ironical reflection that some of these men's colleges were 
partially founded and endowed by well-to-do women, such as Dervorguila, widow 
of John de Baliol, Dorothy Wadham, and Philippa of Hainault. The women's 
colleges were less immediately fortunate in attracting the support of their own sex. 


It had been the final, expiring convulsion of mediaeval Oxford. The 
liberal reaction which followed was responsible for the first Univer- 
sity Commission, with its challenge to monopolies, privileges, the 
complacent apathy of entrenched professors, and the personal extrava- 
gance of undergraduates. 

The insistence of the 1850 Commissioners on the need for economy 
was a preliminary step towards the admission of women, whose lack 
of financial resources put them into that "poorer class" to which 
the Commissioners wanted to extend university benefits. The cost of 
an Oxford education was then as high as the standard of work was 
low. Suggested reforms included such projects as the establishment 
of new halls, the greater use of private houses, admission without 
the compulsion to join a hall or college, and even the possibility of 
degrees without 'residence.' 

When women eventually arrived in Oxford they took advantage 
of all these innovations except the last 

The Commissioners also set their faces against Oxford's domina- 
tion by the classical tradition, pointing out that Mathematics and 
Science received too little attention, while the learned professions of 
Law and Medicine were underrated owing to the "unsatisfactory" 
attitude towards them of the university authorities. A gradual 
modification of the narrow uniformity which had prevailed led in 
1855 to me foundation of the Science Museum, symbolizing the 
development of new subjects embodying modern ideas. 

This change too made easier the coming of women, whose edu- 
cation seldom included classics. By the time that their arrival be- 
came a possibility the greater variety of 'schools' developed within 
the university included several subjects habitually studied by girls, 
such as History and Mathematics. 

In spite of the stonewalling tactics which they encountered, the 
Commissioners finished their Report by 1852, and in 1854 an Act of 
Parliament, carried largely by die efforts of Gladstone, embodied 
most of their recommendations. In 1868 Mark Pattison, the reformer 
who became Rector of Lincoln College and later joined the sponsors 
of women at Oxford, declared that the period which included the 
University Reform Bill had seen "more improvement in the temper 
and teaching of Oxford" than the three hundred years that pre- 
ceded it 

Vested interests and obsolete regulations had been superseded; 
academic prizes were free for open competition. The university and 


the individual colleges alike developed more representative forms of 
government; Fellowships and scholarships were now awarded on 
merit rather than through local or ecclesiastical prejudice. The long- 
standing demand for the removal of religious tests was to achieve its 
purpose when Parliament abolished them in 1871, and with them the 
monopoly at Oxford of the Church of England. Fellows seeking 
permission to marry could now approach their individual colleges, 
though Cambridge retained this historic insistence on celibacy until 

Neither Oxford nor Cambridge wholly freed itself from ecclesi- 
astical control until the end of the nineteenth century, but one of the 
first two Oxford women's halls, later Somerville College, owed its 
undenominational basis to the growing demand for intellectual free- 
dom. In 1860 this demand, voiced by Arthur Stanley, Benjamin 
Jowett, and Frederick Temple among others, found expression in 
the volume Essays and Revieu/s, which initiated a controversy only 
second in its excitement to the fierce emotions of the Tractarian 

The total effect of the 1850 Commission, writes Sir Charles Mallet 
in A History of the University of Oxford, had been to recall the 
university to its proper work; "to restore it to the nation." Women 
represented one half of that nation, though Sir Charles gives little 
space to them in his monumental study. In 1850 they themselves were 
as yet barely conscious that they counted as part of it. 

A few exceptional women had always created an impression, as 
the fame of Elizabeth Elstob, Mary Wollstonecraft, Josephine Butler, 
and Harriet Martineau, among others, still testifies. During the mid- 
Victorian years Mary Somerville, the pioneer scientist and astro- 
nomer, was living in London after her second marriage to her 
cousin William, and associating with a distinguished circle which 
included Lords Melbourne and Macaulay. Though she had learned 
her mathematics and Latin at Edinburgh, her name was to be used 
for the undenominational Oxford women's college seven years after 
her death, when over ninety, in 1872. 

Unlike Mary Somerville, the mass of British women had hardly 
been affected by the intellectual developments of the nineteenth 
century, either within or outside the universities. Public opinion did 
not, as yet, even contemplate their entry into the learned professions. 
They were, it is true, accepted as underpaid teachers both within 
families and in the poorly equipped schools of that period, but 


teaching of this type was almost as far from a learned profession as 
the game of hunt-the-slipper. It was merely a method of passing on 
limitations from one female generation to the next. 

By custom and tradition women were regarded as men's natural 
inferiors, and at best fitted only to function as their auxiliaries. The 
Industrial Revolution, which transferred the former occupations of 
middle-class women from the home to the factories, had depressed 
their status by imposing upon them the useless dependency which 
Olive Schreiner, fifty years later, described as "parasitism." The days 
were still distant when the relegation of most manual labour to 
machines would redress the balance by divorcing the social value of 
individuals from the idea of physical strength. 

The majority of middle-class women were vaguely assumed to be 
wives and mothers, for whom home-making was the sole job com- 
patible with their desires and suited to their qualifications. Only the 
few who studied the census returns of 1851 realized that Britain con- 
tained no less than 876,920 " surplus women." 

Among them were the Oxford spinsters victimized by the en- 
forced celibacy of Fellows, who by the time they reached the pro- 
fessorial position in which marriage was permitted had lost any 
interest that they might once have felt in die unmarried sisters or 
daughters of college heads. Josephine Butler described Oxford in 
the eighteen-fifties as "a society of celibates with little or no leaven 
of family life." 

Among the near-million of British spinsters the revealing census 
uncomfortably disclosed no less than 24,770 governesses. 

Many of these women, compelled to earn their living by the only 
means then available for a gently nurtured girl, came from the lower 
ranks of the clerical profession, where their upbringing had done 
nothing to equip and toughen them for the social fate which kept 
them in a position of comfortless suspension between their employers' 
'class' and the 'lower orders.' 

The upper clerical range, occupied by bishops, headmasters, arch- 
deacons, and canons, maintained for its daughters a totally different 
status, and gave them an upbringing which bore a sketchy resem- 
blance to education. The first Principals of Oxford's Lady Margaret 
Hall and St Hugh's College were both products of this specialized 
background, Elizabeth Wordsworth being the daughter of a Bishop 
of Lincoln, and Charlotte Anne Elizabeth Moberly of a Headmaster 
of Winchester who became Bishop of Salisbury. 


In his Observer review of Lucille Iremonger's candid narrative, 
The Ghosts of Versailles, Mr A. J. P. Taylor unkindly dismissed 
Miss Moberly as an "elderly governess." But though she may have 
been a stranger to the exacting demands of modern scholarship, she 
was equally unfamiliar in her rich and varied youth with the type of 
depressed existence endured and pictured by Charlotte Bronte. 

One of the biographical essays, Four Victorian Ladies of Wiltshire ', 
by Edith Olivier, a student at St Hugh's in 189596, describes the 
Moberly household which produced Charlotte Anne Elizabeth. 
Known in her youth by the less dignified name of Annie, she was 
sponsored at her christening by Charlotte Yonge and Mrs John 
Keble. This family of fifteen, in which Annie came tenth, read 
Trollope, played sedate but absorbing games with Miss Yonge, and 
associated with clergy, headmasters, Winchester schoolboys, and 
college graduates. 

The Moberlys all loved music, and from among themselves pro- 
duced two string quartets. In their father's large library Annie and 
her six older sisters could equip themselves, if they chose, from the 
accumulated learning of the past; they could listen to earnest dis- 
cussions of the Oxford Movement, and acquire a superficial smatter- 
ing of Hebrew and Greek. 

For the great majority of English women, clerical and otherwise, 
there were no such opportunities. Too often the financial disasters 
of parents involved the unwilling departure of daughters, to attempt 
from the depths of their own ignorance the unpromising task of 
enlightening others. Since there is never a scarcity of misfortune, 
more governesses existed than posts for them to fill. The nineteenth 
century had also its own Continental troubles, and after the Revolu- 
tions of 1848 the ranks of the female job-seekers were swollen by 
refugees from Europe. 

In her book The English Miss Alicia C. Percival quotes Fraser's 
Magazine, which complained 2 that mothers committed the training 
of their daughers "to a woman whose only qualification is that she 
has had a twelve months' apprenticeship in an inferior boarding- 
school and that her father failed last week," To this stricture Miss 
Freer, later the Honorary Secretary of Swanky Horticultural Col- 
lege, added a sardonic appendix: "To have lost money was formerly 
considered all that was necessary to prepare a woman for earning a 
salary." Treated as a member of a peculiar race, more respectable but 
8 Volume xxx, page 577. 


much more lonely than the menials In the kitchen, the governess was 
required only to be self-effacing. 

When such pioneers as Barbara Leigh Smith, the friend of Harriet 
Martineau and George Eliot, perceived one of the greatest contem- 
porary needs to be the abolition of the barriers which divided women 
from genuine education, the movement for their training began at 
last to emerge from the century's general impulse towards emancipa- 

The concern of Barbara Leigh Smith had been shared in the 
eighteen-forties by the Christian Socialist Movement which developed 
round Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley. Two ex- 
ploited classes of women, dressmakers and governesses, challenged the 
conscience of this group, for these occupations, being among the few 
methods of earning a living which women, however poorly qualified, 
could attempt, were equally overcrowded and consequently under- 
paid. The usual salary of a governess amounted to .25 a year, on 
which she was expected to "dress like a lady," and had sometimes to 
support others besides herself. 

Since so few governesses could offer their employers anything but 
their gentility, this payment probably represented their intellectual 
value, but did not match up to their human dignity. To help the 
many cases of distress among them, the Christian Socialists made 
themselves responsible in 1841 for a Governesses' Benevolent Institu- 
tion, which gave annuities to the more pitiful of the hundreds of 
applicants who approached them. 

In 1846 the Honorary Secretary of this institution, Mr Laing, the 
Vicar of Holy Trinity, Kentish Town, started a registry of teachers 
to help employers to discover the limits of their governesses' know- 
ledge. A plan to give diplomas to the more competent led to a series 
of examinations, which revealed an ignorance so abysmal among 
those who struggled to instruct the young that the need first to pro- 
vide them with instruction for themselves appeared obvious and 

With the help of Charles Kingsley and a professorial committee 
from King's College, London, a series of evening classes known as 
Lectures for Ladies began in 1847. These lectures coincided with 
an endeavour, started by one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, to 
collect money for women's education, and eventually the Gover- 
nesses' Benevolent Institution took over both experiments. 

So successful were the lectures that from them developed the 


centre known as Queen's College for Women, established in Harley 
Street in 1848 with Frederick Denison Maurice as Principal. This 
institution actually undertook to teach "all branches of female know- 
ledge" an apparently stupendous undertaking limited by the quali- 
fying adjective at a time when knowledge was regarded not as a 
human necessity, but as a male prerogative. 

Though Queen's College was the first establishment of its kind, 
lectures and courses which a few women attended had existed at 
University College, London, from 1828. These courses, however, 
were not college arrangements, but special classes held by concerned 
professors who used the college lecture-rooms for their own con- 
venience. They preceded a similar development of lectures on the 
Continent, inspired by the Revolutions of 1848. 

At Queen's College a strange combination of impoverished spin- 
sters and relatively well-to-do idealistic young women made up the 
200 students of its first year. The second category included the 
poetesses Jean Ingelow and Adelaide Anne Procter; Sophia Jex- 
Blake, 3 who initiated the struggle of British women for the right to 
study medicine; and Dorothea Beale and Frances Mary Buss, who 
between them were to transform the education of schoolgirls. Miss 
Beale was appointed "Lady Tutor" in Mathematics after reaching 
the unexacting standard of achievement which the college required. 
She stayed there till 1856, and two years later became the Head of 
Cheltenham College for Young Ladies. 

In 1849 a second London institution, Bedford College, grew out 
of a series of classes at the house of Mrs Reid in Bedford Square. 
Though the teaching requirements were similar, Bedford College 
differed from Queen's College, run by a man principal with an all- 
male committee, in having a mixed board of management. Mark 
Pattison, whose liberal opinions were to postpone his election as 
Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, until 1861, became a member of 
Bedford College Council. During the eighteen-fifties a third oppor- 
tunity for governesses to develop higher educational standards came 
when the Mechanics' Institute, afterwards Birkbeck College, opened 
two of its courses to women. 

At that time no one could have foreseen that these primitive 
academic experiments were opening the path to England's oldest 

8 In 1859 she was offered the post of mathematical tutor at the college, but re- 
luctantly declined it owing to her father's horror at the idea of her receiving a salary. 
See Go Spin, You Jade] by D. L. Hobman (page 82). 


universities. Had any woman dreamed such a dream, and been 
prophetically aware of Oxford's subsequent reputation as "the home 
of lost causes/' she might sadly have commented that to take up such 
a cause would indeed guarantee defeat in advance. 

A century later her successors realized that the cliche had always 
been false. Oxford is the home of causes which, sooner or later, are 
invariably won. 

Chapter 2: Women Become Aware 


been slowly pushed back, civilization has grown from the develop- 
ment of consciousness in the individuals whose minds have been 
freed. But for a large number of persons to realize what is happen- 
ing in the world, and to understand the direction of social impulses, 
a longer time is needed than the period required for the removal of 
barriers, however obstinate. Psychological advance is always a more 
gradual process than the attainment of practical reform. 

Before women could go to Oxford, or Cambridge, it was necessary 
for a minority of both sexes to become conscious that the lives of 
most middle-class women were incomplete and devoid of any large 
purpose. Where financial security existed this incompleteness had 
not meant unhappiness for the majority of sheltered British women, 
to whom the lives of the female slaves in mines and factories were as 
unfamiliar as an unopened book. 

Discontent came, as it always comes, with the first stages of 

Even then, only one or two women possessed the power to put 
their awareness of frustration into words. Florence Nightingale, 
crying in 1852 from the suffocating elegance of a Victorian drawing- 
room, "Why have women passion, intellect, moral activity these 
three and a place in society where no one of the three can be exer- 
cised? " spoke for the few who even by the end of the century had 
not yet become the many. 

Her contemporaries, if they wanted to exercise influence at all, 
were content to use it by the backstairs method of galvanizing their 
husbands and brothers through charm or subtle persuasion. They 
had not the knowledge or experience to perceive that this way of 
getting things done was unreliable, irresponsible, and often destruc- 

The movement to admit women to universities, both old and new, 
owed much to a developing realization of the need to instruct gifted 


women and train their judgment, so that they might discover how 
to use and not abuse power; to abandon the evasive weapons o weak- 
ness, and learn to rely on the direct use of strength. It is significant 
that in her privately printed memoirs of Somerville College, Miss 
Vera Farnell writes of the work done on university committees by 
Dame Emily Penrose, the greatest of the college's past principals: 
"Not a word was wasted, not a charm nor a wile exercised." 

After Queen's College and Bedford College had been established, 
the growing consciousness of women's restricted opportunities 
showed itself, through the next quarter-century, in the foundation 
of public schools for middle-class girls. In 1850 the North London 
Collegiate School had opened under Frances Mary Buss, followed 
four years later by Cheltenham College for Young Ladies. 

During the same period Barbara Leigh Smith (later Mme 
Bodichon) and her friend Miss Parkes (afterwards Mme Belloc) 
started the Englishwoman's Journal, the first magazine of the 
women's movement, and founded the Society for the Employment of 
Women with the idea of finding alternative careers to that of the 
downtrodden governess. This society, like the later Schools Inquiry 
Commission, disclosed the urgent need for education if women were 
to acquit themselves responsibly in the posts that they filled. 

The Education Act of 1870, which established national elementary 
education, recognized this need by including girls as well as boys 
within its scope. Under its stimulus some of the old training colleges 
for elementary-school teachers were reorganized and new ones 

In 1872 Maria Grey and her sister Miss Shirreff founded the Girl's 
Public Day School Trust, which opened two schools in London the 
following year, and by 1891 had started thirty-six all over the 
country, which gave girls the same opportunities as their brothers. 
Many local Education Authorities now opened their own schools; 
among them was the Oxford High School, which started in 1875 
with Miss Ada Benson as Headmistress. 

These new institutions and their founders all faced four formidable 
difficulties: lack of capital; the hostility of the Press; popular ridicule; 
and the timidity, often becoming actual opposition, of their pupils' 
parents. Most of these parents failed, with the rest of the public, to 
perceive that secondary education would make higher education 
inevitable, and that the two would react on each other. The standard 
of school education began to rise as soon as the schools could send 


their pupils to universities, which in turn sent them back, trained 
and qualified, to teach in the schools. 

Within a few years the demand for university-educated school- 
teachers was to become so insistent that many Oxford and Cambridge 
women read for Honours as soon as they could, without taking the 
intermediate examinations necessary for a degree. This omission was 
to bring a large number of grey-haired women into the ranks of the 
students taking History Previous, "Pass Mods." (Moderations), and 
"Divvers" (Divinity Moderations) after Oxford conferred degrees 
on women. 

Between the appointment of Miss Beale at Cheltenham in 1858 
and the Education Act of 1870 Emily Davies, subsequently the 
founder of Girton College, succeeded with the help of some academic 
sympathizers in getting girls admitted by Cambridge to the Senior 
and Junior Local examinations established some years earlier by the 
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for candidates from boys' 

In 1862 a respectable Victorian feminist, Frances Power Cobbe, 
disturbed by the unsuccessful endeavours of Elizabeth Garrett, later 
Dr Garrett Anderson, to persuade London University to admit her 
as a medical student, raised the new problem of women's relation to 
the universities in a paper read before the Social Science Congress. 
Although this paper made her "the subject of universal ridicule," a 
good friend to the women's movement, Mr William Shaen, of 
London University, usefully suggested that if some concession could 
be obtained from the older foundations London might prove less 
hostile to such aspirants as Miss Garrett. 

The topic of adolescent examinations now leapt into the limelight, 
and took its place in the developing drama. Miss Davies's committee 
found another friend in Mr Tomlinson, the Secretary of the Lon- 
don Centre for the Cambridge Local examinations, who had been a 
Cambridge Wrangler. With his help they persuaded the Cambridge 
Syndicate to agree that an experimental examination should be held 
for girls. 

This permission came only six weeks before the examination was 
due. In spite of much timidity and suspicion in most of the schools 
approached, eighty-three 1 girls were mustered with the help o Miss 
Buss and other pioneers, and arrived in Cambridge duly provided 
with chaperons and safe accommodation. They did quite well in 

1 Ray Strachey in The Cause gives this figure as ninety-one. 



Fox Photos 


By courtesy of the Principal, Miss Lucy Sutherland 

Below (left): BERTHA JOHNSON (MRS 




The portrait by Mrs de Glehn presented 
to Mrs Johnson on her retirement. 

By courtesy of Miss Ruth Butler, former Vice-Principal 

of the Society of Oxford Home Students, and St 

Anne's College 

Below (right): ANNIE M. A. H. ROGERS 

By courtesy of Miss Ruth Butler and St Anne's 


several subjects, but thirty-six out of forty senior girls failed in 

"It was clear/' wrote the relevant examiner, "that this was due 
to lack of proper instruction," and Mr Tomlinson himself reported 
that "there is no ground whatever for the notion that girls are unfit 
to take part in these examinations." The need for the "instruction" 
which they demanded was indeed clear from the results, which had 
revealed the poor quality of the teaching rather than the incapacity 
of the students. After further pressure the Senate of the University of 
Cambridge passed, in March 1865 by a majority of four, a 'Grace' 
admitting girls to its Local examinations. 

Miss Davies's committee now made a similar application to 
Oxford, where a Delegacy of Local Examinations had been created 
in 1857. For the moment this university took refuge in masterly 
inactivity, but in 1867, citing the example of Cambridge, the Dele- 
gates applied for the power to examine girls, who began to sit for 
the papers three years later. 

Two years after the unofficial examination at Cambridge, regret 
was first publicly expressed at the lack of real education available for 
British women. 

In 1864 the Government had set up the Taunton Commission to 
inquire into "the whole subject of middle-class education." When 
the ever-vigilant Emily Davies discovered that this "whole subject" 
was not designed to include the education of girls, she and a number 
of teachers from Queen's and Bedford Colleges bombarded the sur- 
prised Commissioners with correspondence and memoranda until 
they agreed to include girls within the range of their investiga- 
tions. For the first time the standards of education at girls' schools 
were to be officially revealed, and the natural opposition of semi- 
trained mistresses to inquiries and inspection would be finally over- 

Miss Davies, and at her suggestion Miss Buss and Miss Beale, gave 
evidence before this Royal Commission in November 1865. Subduing 
much womanly trepidation, they fortified themselves beforehand 
with claret and biscuits. This nervousness, so reassuring in its proof 
of the ladylike qualities of the witnesses, did good rather than harm 
to their purpose. 

When the Commissioners' Report appeared in 1868 it proved to 
be exactly what Miss Davies had hoped for. It began by assuming 
that girls' education was important, and expressed the belief of the 


investigators in their capacity for instruction, but it summarized the 
pathetic inadequacy of existing arrangements. 
These, ran the Report, disclosed 

want of thoroughness and foundation; want of system; slovenliness 
and showy superficiality ... a very small amount of professional skill, 
an inferior set of school-books, a vast deal of dry uninteresting work, 
rules put into the memory with no explanation of their principles, no 
system of examinations worthy of the name, a very false estimate of 
the relative value of the several kinds of acquirement. . . . The two capi- 
tal defects of the teachers of girls are these: they have not themselves 
been taught, and they do not know how to teach. 

The Commissioners were not, however, prepared to be revolu- 
tionary. Though approving the idea of the Cambridge Local exami- 
nations in principle, they thought it daring to admit girls "to the very 
same examinations as boys." They also emphasized the indifference 
of parents to girls' education, and even their fear that intellectual 
attainments might jeopardize matrimony. 

"It must be fully admitted," they added, "that such ideas have a 
very strong root in human nature." 2 

They nevertheless made some practical recommendations with 
regard to endowments, pointing out the current injustice of devoting 
almost all the large sums provided to educate the British middle 
classes to the needs of boys. These strictures led to the passing of 
the Endowed Schools Act, which modified this masculine monopoly 
of the country's educational resources. In spite of all the controversies 
that lay ahead, the road to Oxford and Cambridge had been opened 
for women. 

During the correspondence involved by the Cambridge Local 
examinations and the Schools Inquiry Commission, Emily Davies 
had met a number of women teachers and with them discussed their 
aims. From these contacts grew the London Schoolmistresses' 
Association, organized to meet their need for consultation and co- 

The novel encouragement given by this Association brought out 

2 In 1957 an intelligent middle-aged woman working at a Canadian university 
expressed to the writer her disappointment that the more brilliant of her two 
daughters, educated at the same institution, had married at twenty and was now 
absorbed in producing a family. "I slaved to give her every possible opportunity,'* 
she said, "and she just went and threw it all away." This total reversal of maternal 
values among some mothers in less than a century demands no comment. 


the desire for " something to work up to" which these teachers 
shared. Girls* schools, it seemed, might be rescued from their con- 
temporary doldrums if only there were some purpose more promising 
than that of being the aimless daughter-at-home for which their 
pupils could be prepared. But so far no Institution existed which 
might provide this incentive; Queen's College and Bedford College 
were not, by male standards, much better than good secondary 

In 1866 Miss Davies's committee had endeavoured to persuade 
London University to open Matriculation to girls. This effort had led 
only to the offer of a special "women's examination," suited In the 
university's view to the limited capacity of females, but, of course, 
carrying none of the academic privileges conferred by the genuine 
article, and without status in the world of education. 

After this suggestion, which to her uncompromising standards 
appeared a setback, Emily Davies began for the first time to contem- 
plate a college of her own, which would provide for young women 
the same opportunities that Oxford and Cambridge offered to young 

After a year of combined support and rebuffs (the rebuffs coming 
from Dr Pusey, of Oxford, and the writers Margaret Gatty and 
Charlotte M. Yonge) the money began slowly to come in, and the 
founding of Girton College lay ahead. Simultaneously Miss Anne 
Jemima Clough, the sister of Arthur Hugh Clough, was at work on 
the organization of a North of England Council for the Higher 
Education of Women, of which she became the Secretary and 
Josephine Butler the President. The experiment proved so successful 
that its promoters petitioned Cambridge to set up the special 
"women's examination" well suited to the capacities of their stu- 
dents which Miss Davies had rejected as tending "to keep down 
the level of female education." 

Miss Clough did not share this feminist attitude; she had no 
objection to reaching her goal by a back door provided that she 
arrived there. Cambridge University granted the petition from the 
North, with oddly unexpected results. Five years later men were 
admitted to the special women's test, and it became the "Higher 
Local examination" which completed the scheme for Local examina- 
tions already established for younger candidates. 

The two schemes, operating separately, brought about the foun- 
dation In 1869 of "Hitchin College," moved to Girton village, two 


mEes north-west of Cambridge, in 1873, and of Newnham College, 
sponsored by Mrs Butler, Professor Henry Sidgwick, John Stuart 
Mill, and Professor and Mrs Henry Fawcett, within the university 
itself. Newnham's first home was a small white house in Regent 
Street, Cambridge. The ideas behind these institutions were quite 
distinct, and so, at the outset, was the attitude of their founders 
towards examinations and degrees. 

It seems a strange coincidence that at Oxford also a difference of 
principle this time religious, not educational was to lead to the 
fortunate foundation of two colleges when the original demand for 
higher education had seemed sufficient to justify only one. In both 
universities a commendable lack of friction between the two original 
colleges surmounted these ideological conflicts, though Alicia C. 
Percival records the complaint of an early Girton tutor that the dis- 
tance from Cambridge and the differences of opinion between Emily 
Davies and the Newnham section cut her off from the social life of 
the university. 

An affinity can appropriately be discovered between Girton and 
Somerville College, Oxford, where the same refusal to compromise 
on intellectual aims occurred, and between Newnham and Lady 
Margaret Hall. Miss Wordsworth, the first Principal of the college 
familiar from its beginnings as 'L.M.H.,' agreed with Miss Clough 
that higher education should never supersede the claims of domestic 
life. "We want," she characteristically stated, "to turn out girls so 
that they will be capable of making homes happy." 

By 1872 three Girton students were ready to sit for the Tripos 
examination. The University Senate refused to allow them to sit 
officially, but raised no obstacle to a private test. Not all the examiners 
co-operated, but a sufficient number agreed to look through the 
papers to show that the three candidates had passed the same 
Honours examinations as the men and under the same regulations. 
Girton's jubilation was fully justified; the candidates had proved 
that women could profit by good teaching and make the effort 
needed to reach scholarly standards. 

In spite of this satisfactory result, the same roundabout procedure 
had to be repeated annually until 1881, when women were allowed to 
sit officially for the Tripos examination. But by 1873 twenty-two out 
of the thirty-four Cambridge professors were admitting women to 
their lectures, thus defying the still rooted antagonism of public 
opinion to female education. 


From the middle of the century this hostility had found its chief 
published expression in the weekly Saturday Review. When Cam- 
bridge opened its Local examinations to girls the magazine pub- 
lished an anonymous article archly suggesting that the examiners 
would be unduly influenced by a pretty face. Such faces, in fact, they 
would never see, since their judgment, unlike that of photographers, 
was exercised on the written script, and not on the features of the 

Opposition also came from the clergy, with Dr Pusey at their 
head. Forty years later, when the struggle for women's degrees at 
Oxford was judiciously reaching its height, it was said to be the 
clerical backwoodsmen entitled as M.A.'s to attend Convocation who 
delayed the measure. 

At Cambridge their tactics were eventually to prove even more 
successful, but in 1877 this university was moving so fast that a pro- 
gressive M.P., Mr Leonard Courtney, attempted through Parliament 
to establish the position of its women students. There he proposed an 
amendment to the current Universities of Oxford and Cambridge 
Bill to enable them "to examine female students concurrently with 
male students." Needless to say, this amendment was rejected, but 
the majority against it (239 votes to 119) was not sufficiently large to 
terminate the effort. 

Two years earlier the first Parliamentary move towards sex 
equality in higher education had been made when a Bill became law 
enabling the universities to admit women if they wished. London 
University followed this Enabling Act by a new charter, and in 1878 
accepted women without reservation for its classes, lectures, and 
examinations. 3 The provincial and Scottish universities were soon to 
follow, and within fifteen years had all admitted women to member- 
ship and degrees. 

Oxford now appeared a long way behind the main stream of 
progress, but in 1866 it had already begun to stir. 

During that year some wives and sisters of Oxford dons obtained 
permission to attend university lectures and classes organized by 
Miss Eleanor Smith, sister of Henry Smith, the Professor of Geo- 
metry at Balliol. Miss Smith appears to have been a decisive character, 
who knew the founders of both Girton and Newnham. She was long 

3 But some of the London medical schools did not admit women as students till 
after the Second World War. 


remembered as embarrassingly outspoken and an equally embarrass- 
ing dog-lover, who shared the lectures with her pets. 

Possibly owing to her eccentricities, but also because Oxford 
opinion was not quite ready for it, the scheme died for lack of 
support. It survived only in three contemporary caricatures by Sidney 
Hall, one showing Professor William Sidgwick, a sponsor of the 
lectures, instructing a Victorian lady "in a fashion similar to the 
Latin lesson in The Taming of the Shrew" and another portraying 
a lecturer addressing an earnest female audience on "The Cow and 
Vaccination." 4 

The dominant intellectual influence in this Oxford of the eighteen- 
sixties was already Benjamin Jowett, a tutor at Balliol since 1842. 
Though he did not become Master of the College until 1870 (he had 
been passed over in 1854 owing to his "heretical" opinions), he had 
already made Balliol, in the words of Sir Geoffrey Faber, "a famous 
nursery of public men." The cause of women never attracted his 
support, though his successor, Dr Caird, befriended them. 

Between 1823 and 1923 sixty-two Balliol men became Presidents of 
the Oxford Union more than twice the number of Presidents from 
any other college except Christ Church, which contributed fifty-six. 
Nineteenth-century Balliol undergraduates, in addition to future 
archbishops, viceroys, ambassadors, ministers, and judges, included 
Matthew Arnold, who became Professor of Poetry in 1857, and 
Arthur Hugh Clough. Robert Browning, who had "fought his way 
to faith," was elected a Fellow in 1870. His poems were becoming 
so popular that the Browning Society was soon to be one of the most 
flourishing in undergraduate Oxford. 

Outstanding among Balliol tutors was Professor T. H. Green, a 
good friend to women, whose handsome wife was to be associated 
for many years with Somerville College. T. H. Green, a serious and 
attractive man who had become the intellectual leader of the new 
philosophical movement known as English Hegelianism, had him- 
self been influenced by James Bowling Mozley a "teacher of 
teachers" who combined, in Gladstone's phrase, "the clear form of 
Newman with the profundity of Bishop Butler." 

Green's leading disciple was the first Arnold Toynbee, who died 
at the age of thirty in the same year, 1882, which marked the prema- 
ture death of his master. A charming and persuasive personality, 
Toynbee acquired a commanding influence during his short life by 
4 Described by Annie M. A. H. Rogers in Degrees by Degrees. 


maintaining, in his lectures and writings, that political economy 
should be studied in relation to history, and by insisting that the 
world's workers were not wage-earning machines, but human beings 
with minds and emotions. His wife's long and close connexion with 
Lady Margaret Hall was similar to that of Mrs T. H. Green with 

Among other commanding personalities in the university which 
women would so soon enter were Edward King, the Principal of 
Cuddesdon College, who became Professor of Pastoral Theology at 
Christ Church and later Bishop of Lincoln; Dr H. P. Liddon, his 
fellow-collegian and one of the most eminent preachers of his era; 
and John Keble, who died in 1866. The following year a scheme for 
a distinctively Anglican college, to offer first-rate academic teaching 
to men of restricted means, was launched at Lambeth Palace in 
Keble' s memory. 

After its opening in 1871, with young Dr Edward Talbot, a future 
Bishop of Winchester, as its Warden, Keble College became a centre 
of growing clerical influence. Lady Margaret Hall might perhaps 
have never existed had not this new college, a focus of Anglicanism, 
created a precedent for a similar effort by women. 

Competing with these classical and clerical influences, some lead- 
ing literary figures brought additional prestige to mid- Victorian 
Oxford. Charles Reade, elected a Fellow of Magdalen in 1835, kept 
his rooms in college for nearly fifty years. The Pre-Raphaelite school, 
dominant in the eighteen-fifties when William Morris and Edward 
Burne- Jones were contemporary undergraduates at Exeter College, 
gave way to the cult of Carlyle and Ruskin. Their moral earnestness, 
not then regarded as a quality suitable for derision, brought them a 
following so numerous that when Ruskin, as Professor of Art, began 
his lectures in February 1870 the audience had to be moved from the 
Museum to the Sheldonian Theatre. 

When the possibility of admitting women to his lectures arose in 
the following year Ruskin wrote to protest that he could not accom- 
modate them : 

I cannot let the bonnets in, on any conditions this term. The three 
public lectures will be chiefly on angles, degrees of colour-prisms 
(without any prunes) and other such things of no use to the female 
mind, and they would occupy the seats in mere disappointed puzzle- 
ment. 5 

* Quoted by Mallet, A History of the University of Oxford, volume Hi, page 447, 
from a letter by Ruskin to Sir Henry Acland in the Acland Collection in the Bodleian. 


In spite of these baffling technicalities the "bonnets" found their 
way into the lectures, and, inspired by another series on Italian paint- 
ing two years later, were soon to initiate a movement which would 
add substantially to Oxford architecture within the next eight decades. 

Though poetry was so popular and art so compelling, the uni- 
versity authorities strangely regarded with disfavour the idea of 
making English Literature a subject for Final Schools. Its introduc- 
tion had been suggested to the Royal Commission of 1850, but before 
1873 Literature was not even included in the Pass examination. 

A proposal to make it part of the School of Modern History en- 
countered the opposition of the historian Dr William Stubbs, who 
refused to accept this "dilettante teaching." Congregation at last 
approved the Final Honours School of English Language and 
Literature in December 1893, but long after that date English re- 
mained a 'women's subject/ despised by the weightier intelligences 
of men. 6 Modern History, unmarried to Literature, and divorced 
from Law in 1872, became a popular school which attracted many 
literary students. 

In that year 1872 a second Royal Commission visited Oxford. 
Unlike its predecessor of 1850, it did not attempt to mitigate the 
influence of ancient traditional studies by introducing modern sub- 
jects, but investigated the property, income, and expenditure of the 
university. While discovering that Christ Church, Magdalen, and 
New College were the three wealthiest institutions, it also found that 
much of the money being spent on comfort and privileges could 
be used for education. 

Lord Salisbury, who had been elected Chancellor in 1869, became 
interested, with the Commissioners, in the possibility of using more 
college funds for university purposes, in enlarging the scope of 
Oxford studies, and in promoting scientific research. But the new 
investigators, like the previous Commissioners, took no interest in 
women's university education. They ignored the movements in 
Cambridge and London, and seemed quite unaware that these revo- 
lutionary ideas were already a source of controversy at Oxford. 

Most undergraduates, in spite of the tea-parties arranged to 
civilize them by Oxford residents, seldom saw any women, but the 
discussion of 'women's rights' had become quite familiar, even if it 

6 A woman student who was at Oxford during the First World War recalls that 
even then the English School was popularly described as "pink sunsets." 


was usually an excuse for mirth. In 1866 Miss Lilian Faithfull, who 
was to follow Miss Beale as Headmistress of Cheltenham College, 
had abandoned giving an Oxford lecture on the position of women 
for fear of undergraduate ridicule. 

Five years later the Union carried, by 19 votes to 13, a motion 
opposing the acceptance of any political rights for women. In 1873 
the Oxford Undergraduate Journal suggested, with prophetic irony, 
that within a few years " Colleges for Ladies" would form an integral 
part of the university. This perspicacity was at least topical, for after 
a Ruskin lecture of that year Mrs Mandell Creighton, the young wife 
of the future Bishop, asked Mrs Arthur Johnson, whose husband was a 
Fellow of Exeter and a Lecturer on Modern History at several colleges, 
to join a new committee to provide lectures and classes for women. 

Since the abortive movement of 1866 a significant change had 
occurred in Oxford. From the early eighteen-seventies the relaxa- 
tion of the celibacy rule for Fellows brought a number of young 
women into university society to modify the former exclusively 
masculine comradeships. 

While undergraduate magazines printed typical jokes about 
perambulators in the Parks, these newly married wives were 
fashionably serious-minded, and concerned to do all that they could 
to promote women's education. They formed an eager and youthful 
circle, living modestly in the recently developed residential area of 
North Oxford. They all believed that new opportunities carried with 
them responsibilities towards others less fortunate than themselves, 
and had no Idea that any patronizing impulse dictated their interest 
in the working classes and their schemes for social reform. 

Mrs Creighton, a bride of 1872, who was one of the first to appear, 
often found herself "the only lady" at a college dinner. In later life 
she recalled the almost "indecent haste" with which the Fellows 
of Merton exercised the new college-regulated permission to marry. 
Her own marriage to the future Bishop, a candidate for a Merton 
Fellowship when already engaged to her, created a temporary prob- 
lem. In An Oxford Portrait Gallery Janet Courtney quotes a letter 
from Mandell Creighton to his fiancee: "Merton has always been 
regarded as the most advanced and maddest College in Oxford, but 
the spectacle of all its Fellows rushing headlong into matrimony at 
once will make every one in Oxford die with laughter." 

A few months after the Creighton wedding Mary Augusta Arnold, 
the niece of the poet, who had lived in Oxford since her schooldays, 


was married at the age of twenty to Humphry Ward, a Fellow and 
tutor of Brasenose College who subsequently joined the staff of The 
Times. The Wards' little house in Bradmore Road, furnished with 
antique chests, Morris wallpapers, and blue pottery, became a centre 
of modern ideas where the daring new schemes for women were 

These youthful wives dined out in Liberty gowns, and travelled to 
social engagements in bath-chairs, drawn by one of Oxford's ancient 
'chairmen/ with the occupant's husband walking beside him. Round 
them gathered a periphery of spinsters Oxford daughters, visiting 
school-teachers, temporary visitors with an interest in 'culture* 
who under their chaperonage attended the later-established lectures 
and classes. 

When young Mrs Arthur Johnson, whose Irish medical father 
had been an enthusiast for equal rights in education, eagerly agreed 
to join the new committee she found herself in a distinguished com- 
pany. Its earliest members included Mrs T. H. Green, who was the 
sister of John Addington Symonds; Clara Pater, whose brother 
Walter wrote Marius the Epicurean; Mrs George Kitchin, wife of 
the historian who became Dean of Durham; Mrs Edward Talbot, of 
Keble; and Mrs Humphry Ward. 

Portraits of two of these lecture-founders hang on the walls of 
Somerville College. Charlotte Green, painted by Hugh Riviere, looks 
across the High Table towards the students in the main body of the 
hall. Her grey hair is smoothly parted in the centre beneath a white 
lace cap, and a double row of amber emphasizes the lace-edged high 
neck of her black dress. The small, firm mouth and keen grey eyes 
in the beautiful serene face testify to the capacity for caustic utterance 
which occasionally varied her tranquil kindness. Mrs Green had 
been trained as a nurse and was therefore an ideal chaperon for the 
future students, whose early lecturers confidently expected them to 
descend to the classroom floor in periodic fainting fits. 

The portrait of Clara Pater, adorning the secluded passage 
outside the private dining-hall of the Senior Common Room, shows 
a serious, oval face framed by smooth dark hair, and clearly defined 
brows above contemplative eyes. Like her brother, Miss Pater repre- 
sented the quintessence of Oxford aestheticism; with other contem- 
poraries who had been influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites she was 
often to be seen in peacock-blue serge ornamented with crewel sun- 
flowers and an amber necklace. 


The inevitable amber appears in her picture, decorating the neck 
of a demure white dress. Although, like most women pioneers of her 
day, she could boast no academic qualifications, she was to become 
Somerviile's first tutor and later Vice-Principal; and she even mas- 
tered Latin and Greek. 

"It is simply impossible," Miss Wordsworth wrote of the family 
in 1911, "to imagine any of the Paters in a crowded railway-station, 
or being jostled about and losing their luggage, or running to catch 
a bus." 

But the one member of the lecture committee destined to emerge 
from university prestige into the limelight of national fame was 
Mrs Humphry Ward. A story current in literary circles just before 
the First World War derived its point from a comparison between 
her impressive reputation and the more modest status of her husband. 

According to this legend, Humphry Ward met at his club an 
acquaintance with whom he had been out of touch for some years. 
After enthusiastically inviting him to dinner his friend added, "And 
if there is a Mrs H. W., bring her along! " 

In The Women of My Time Janet Courtney formerly Janet 
Hogarth, and a student at Lady Margaret Hall in the eighteeen- 
eighties remarks that probably only her own generation could 
realize the sensation made by Mrs Ward's novel Robert Elsmcre at 
the time it was published. "Oxford talked of nothing else that sum- 
mer term the game of spotting originals was played round every 
dinner-table. In London the writer was the lion of a season." 

Like all Mrs Ward's books, Robert Elsmere was a novel-with-a- 
purpose that of modernizing religion which her fame seemed to 
justify. After leaving school she had studied early Spanish literature 
on the advice of Mark Pattison, and with the encouragement of 
Mandell Creighton and John Richard Green went on with her studies 
after she married. Some contributions to the Dictionary of Christian 
Biography on early Spanish Churchmen led to a preoccupation with 
Christian origins which afterwards found expression in her best- 
known noveL Fiction, first attempted when she began to write stories 
for her children, was probably not her natural medium. 

A celebrated cartoon by Max Beerbohm shows her as an earnest 
small girl with long hair, reproving her distinguished kinsman for 
unseemly mirth. 

"Uncle Matthew, why will you not be wholly serious? " 

At the time of the Lectures for Ladies Mary Ward was a natural 


liberal, who wrote a fiery pamphlet In defence of modern thought 
after hearing a sermon preached at the University Church by John 
Wordsworth, brother of the future Dame Elizabeth, which aroused 
her wrath. Her subsequent leadership of the anti-suffrage contingent 
seems oddly out of character, even though she attributed it as Mrs 
D. L. Hobman has recorded in Go Spin, You Jade! to women's 
"increasing activity in that higher state which rests on thought, con- 
science and moral influence." This activity seemed to her and her 
fellow-signatories of the document described by Mrs Sidney Webb 
as that "notorious manifesto" to be incompatible with "direct 
power in that state which rests on force." 

A species of obstinacy, typical of those public characters who are 
personalities rather than persons and have a myth to maintain, prob- 
ably compelled her to pursue this futile course, which must have 
appeared to her commanding intelligence as a lost crusade long before 
she finished working for it. She finally gave way to the logic of 
history, and even shook hands with her former opponent, Millicent 
Fawcett, shortly before the end of her own life soon after the First 
World War. 

In 1873 Mrs Ward betrayed no misgivings about the future posi- 
tion of women. She and Mrs Creighton became the first secretaries of 
the committee for lectures, held in rooms lent at the Old Clarendon 
Building and dedicated to such weighty topics as classics, modern 
languages, and mathematics, that bogy of schoolgirls. Long after- 
wards, in her memoirs, she described this enthusiastic committee, on 
which "everybody was equal, nobody was rich, and the intellectual 
average was naturally high." 

She and her friends, she records, were "on fire" for women's 
education, and fully conscious that Cambridge had blazed the trail 
before them. Money was scarce; personal effort had to replace large- 
scale expenditure on postage, printing, and stationery. To the end 
of her life Mrs Arthur Johnson, as Principal of the Oxford Home 
Students, used postcards and half-sheets of notepaper as the result of 
this early training in economy. 

The young women did not overlook the importance of influential 
male support. In addition to such sympathizers as Professor T. H. 
Green, Canon Scott Holland, Dr Magrath of Queen's College, Dr 
Talbot, Dr Percival, and (later so famous) Canon Archibald Spooner 
of New College, they appealed to the now celebrated Dr Mark Patti- 
son, Rector of Lincoln. 


As a conspicuous liberal and successful tutor Mark Pattison had 
worked hard to raise the standard of scholarship at his college. By 
1850 he had lifted from Lincoln the deadweight influence of drink- 
ing undergraduates and dry-as-dust dons, and in 1868 he published a 
searching examination of the whole university system (Suggestions 
on Academical Organization). He regarded the new Science Museum 
as the symbol of a revolution in Oxford life; it was a concrete sign of 
the triumph of modern scholarship over the clerical tradition. 

When the new possibilities for women were first discussed Dr 
Pattison's reputation had reached its height. His wife, Emilia Francis, 
was a pretty, picturesque, unconventional young art student who, 
passionately respectful of learning, had married him at twenty-one, 
when he was twice her age. The contrast between his bitter, learned, 
fastidious personality and his wife's gay vitality is said to have given 
George Eliot her first inspiration for the story of Dorothea's marriage 
to Mr Casaubon in Middlemarch. 7 But Dr Pattison appears to have 
been far more remarkable than the dreary pedant of George Eliot's 
novel; he was one of the greatest scholars of his generation, who 
taught his wife to study philosophy, history, and ancient and modern 
languages, without undermining the social gifts which she displayed 
at Sunday supper-parties and gregarious games of croquet. 

After his death she married Sir Charles Dilke in spite of the 
Divorce Court case that wrecked his career. Thirty years later Mary 
Ward wrote of her: "None of her early friends can ever think of the 
Francis Pattison of Oxford days without a strange stirring of the 

In supporting the Lectures for Ladies, Mark Pattison, who 
admired his young wife's elegance, expressed a concern lest the 
female aspirants after learning should neglect their appearance. At a 
large party, he asserted, he could immediately detect a student from 
Newnham or Girton. 

Half a century afterwards, when Mrs Arthur Johnson resigned as 
Principal of the Home Students, she paid a tribute to the dead 
pioneers of higher education for women, and referred with gentle 
irony to Dr Pattison's preoccupation. "If you had seen and known 
him," she said, "you would hardly believe me when I tell you that 

7 George Eliot may well have owed the name of her pedant, Edward Casaubon, 
to an article by Mark Pattison on the sixteenth-century scholar Isaac Casaubon, 
which appeared in the Quarterly Review in 1853. In 1875, four years after Middlemarcb 
appeared, Mark Pattison published the life of Isaac Casaubon, his most important 


it was he who warned me to entreat my young women to be neat 
and tidy and careful in their dress, and courteous in their manners." 

The trailing velveteen gowns which surrounded Dr Pattison at 
Oxford, with their wide lace collars dividing bead-encrusted necks 
from sloping shoulders, no doubt justified his anxiety. To this 
evening attire a few intellectuals added a daytime negligence typi- 
fied even after the First World War by the olive-green mackin- 
toshes and battered felt hats which some women students adopted 
as a virtual uniform. 

The new committee held its first meeting at the Creighton's house 
(inevitably named " Middlemarch "), whence Mary Ward, Clara 
Pater, and Bertha Johnson sent out circulars describing the proposed 
lectures. The whole group of enthusiasts, including the future 
Bishop, took turns in performing the function now known as 'baby- 
sitting* for the Creighton's year-old infant. 

When the Rev. Arthur Johnson gave the first lecture the audience 
overflowed the room; another had to be used, and the success of the 
series was guaranteed. Among the listeners sat Elizabeth Sewell, 
sister of the Warden of New College, who was herself well known as 
the author of Laneton Parsonage and other moral tales for girls. The 
younger women, who were more numerous, included Margaret 
Bradley, later Margaret Woods, daughter of the Master of Univer- 
sity College, and Elizabeth Wordsworth, then visiting her brother 
John, who was Fellow and tutor at Brasenose. One of the early 
lecturers, Robert Laing, of Corpus Christi, became enthusiastic about 
Miss Wordsworth's essay the best sent in, he said but he did not 
approve of examinations for women. 

Most of the lectures dealt with history a favourite subject among 
women students, since it then made no demands on their non-existent 
knowledge of the classics. The lecturers included Dr William Stubbs 
(later Bishop) and Thorold Rogers, father of the intrepid Annie 
Mary Anne, whose exploit at the * Locals' coincided with the open- 
ing of the series. Professor Rogers even proposed, the following year, 
that men and women should be admitted to examinations in separ- 
ate rooms, but have their names published in the same class lists. 

This suggestion met with immediate opposition, but he revived it 
more successfully in 1875, when the university passed a statute set- 
ting up special examinations for women. Honours tests were then 
provided in fourteen subjects, which among more decorous topics 
actually included Physics and Biology. The scheme embodied some 


typical concessions for ambitious females; no time limit was imposed 
on their work, no residence in Oxford was required before they sat 
for the papers, and they were permitted to substitute Modern Lan- 
guages for Latin and Greek. These examinations involved no official 
recognition by the university of the women already living and work- 
ing in Oxford, 

Consciousness was nevertheless developing fast among them, not 
only through the lectures they attended, but from their contacts with 
women outside their circle; financial success had enabled them to 
invite a number of elementary-school teachers, who were admitted 
free. Further stimulus also came from the part in municipal affairs 
now being taken by some citizenship-conscious Oxford men, such as 
T. H. Green and A. L. Smith, later Master of Balliol, who became 
a Poor Law Guardian. 

The premature death of Arnold Toynbee was to lead to the forma- 
tion of Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel, and to the support by Oxford 
men and women of University Settlements among the London poor. 
Mrs Toynbee, who survived her husband for nearly fifty years, her- 
self joined the ranks of the Poor Law Guardians. 

This growing social awareness brought men and women into a 
new relationship with one another. Many famous men came to Oxford 
to attend Dr Jowetf s week-end parties, from which women were not 
excluded. Miss Wordsworth managed judiciously to combine mem- 
bership of the Balliol set with irreproachable clerical orthodoxy, and 
Mrs Alfred Marshall, whose Cambridge husband replaced Arnold 
Toynbee for two years as a Balliol lecturer on Economics, recalled 
meeting Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Huxley, and 
Arthur Balfour at the Master's Saturday dinners. Dr Jowett, she 
recorded in What 1 Remember, was very shy, and therefore liked to 
surround himself with people who talked well. 

As Mary Paley, Mrs Marshall had been one of the first five students 
under Miss Clough at Newnham College, and after reading for the 
Moral Science Tripos became its first resident lecturer. In 1884 she 
and her husband returned to Cambridge, where Alfred Marshall 
took the place, as Professor of Political Economy, of Henry Fawcett, 
who had died that year. 

The serious move made in 1878 to establish women's colleges at 
Oxford owed a great deal to all these developments, for they guaran- 
teed in advance the interest of some prominent university men. Their 


concern made the new experiments appear as an endeavour to gain 
opportunities for women rather than a demand for their 'rights* a 
substantial advantage in the prevailing climate of opinion. 

Thanks to masculine support the university had already made 
rooms for lectures available, and given permits to women to read in 
the Bodleian. The sight of them in these once exclusively male 
strongholds was gradually becoming familiar, and no longer pro- 
duced either ridicule or alarm. 

In 1925, soon after her retirement, Mrs Johnson contributed an 
article to The Oxford Souvenir in which she compared the atmo- 
sphere of the post- War university with that of the eighteen-seventies. 
One of the few survivors, at seventy-nine, of the group of friends 
responsible for bringing women to Oxford, she recalled the vanished 
dangers which had existed in those Victorian years and compelled a 
slow, careful approach. To illustrate her point she quoted a remark 
made by an East End slum-dweller to Octavia Hill towards the end 
of the century : 

"Oh, Miss, now it's like Heaven; there's a lamppost and a police- 
man at every corner! " 

In 1956 Miss C. M. E. Burrows, Principal of St Hilda's Hall from 
1910 to 1919 and of the Society of Home Students from 1921 to 1929, 
was asked, at the age of eighty-four, whether the pioneers of the 
eighteen-seventies could ever have visualized the responsible equality 
of the nineteen-fifties between men and women undergraduates. Did 
they see this freedom as the ultimate end of the road they had begun 
to tread? 

Her response was prompt and emphatic: "Oh, no! They would 
not have approved of it. In those days it would not have been 
thought right and proper." 

Many changes had to occur outside as well as within Oxford 
before men and women could work normally together without 
prejudice or fear. 


From the portrait by Jacomb Hood in the 

college dining-hall, 
By courtesy of the Principal, Dame Janet Vattghan 




From the portrait by W. Llewellyn at the 

By courtesy of the Principal, Miss E. E. S. Procter 





From the portrait painted by J. J. Shannon. 

in 1903. 
By courtesy of the Principal, Ladies College, 

Photo "Gloucestershire Echo" 

Chapter $: The Interlopers 


came from Dr Edward Talbot, of Keble, after a visit to Girton with 
his wife in 1878. 

They felt that they had been in contact with a new movement 
which was bound to expand, and when they returned he said to 
her, "Why should the Church not be for once at the front instead 
of behind in its development? " 

Shortly afterwards he discussed the idea of "a small residential 
enterprise" with a number of his colleagues, and on June 4 of that 
year, before a meeting of seventeen well-known Oxford residents, 
who included Professor T. H. Green, Dr Mark Pattison, and Dr J. F. 
Mackarness, Bishop of Oxford, he moved a resolution "to attempt 
the establishment at Oxford of a small hall in connexion with the 
Church of England, for the reception of women desirous of availing 
themselves of the special privileges which Oxford offers of higher 

It should be possible, the group thought, to have such a hall ready 
for students by the Michaelmas term of the following year. On 
June 22 they called into being a new body, the Association for the 
Education of Women, which would be responsible for supervising 
all the educational work. 

Meanwhile disagreement had already developed among the sup- 
porters of the scheme on the subject of religious observance, a typical 
fury of the period. In the denominational struggle that followed, the 
non-sectarians insisted with S. H. Butcher, the celebrated translator 
of the Odyssey, that the students would be priest-ridden, while the 
theologians believed, with Dr Liddon, of Christ Church, that they 
would all be atheists. Finally a nucleus led by Dr John Percival, 
President of Trinity College and later Bishop of Hereford, seceded 
from the original committee, and on February 7, 1879, decided to 
open a second, undenominational, hall. 

By this time Dr Talbot and his friends had encountered formidable 


opposition of another kind; many well-known persons both in and 
out o Oxford disliked his scheme altogether. Dr Liddon thought it 
"an educational development which runs counter to the wisdom and 
experience of all the centuries of Christendom/' while Charlotte M. 
Yonge believed that "a mere boarding-house on good principles 
where young ladies may be sent to prepare for examinations may be 
an institution worthy of support but not commanding any en- 

Miss Elizabeth Sewell disapproved even more vehemently. "I think 
the competition with young men highly undesirable," she said, 
"and unavoidable publicity in a place of comparatively small size 
dangerous to women at an age so open to vanity and excitement." 

Professor Max Miiller agreed with her that Oxford was the worst 
situation in the world for a ladies' college, and even Miss Beale, at 
that early date, "doubted whether there were at present many women 
able to profit by any high teaching." 

Refusing to be deterred, the committee went ahead, and sent out 
prospectuses describing the suggested institution, subsequently Lady 
Margaret Hall, as "an academical house ... to be conducted accord- 
ing to the principles of the Church of England, but with full provi- 
sion for the liberty of those not members of it." The non-sectarian 
group also carried on, and at a second meeting Mrs Humphry Ward 
proposed the name of Somerville Hall in honour of Mary Somer- 
ville, the astronomer. 1 

Eventually both halls, after briskly furnishing on the cheap, 
opened on October 13, 1879. The first prospectuses described the 
student life at Lady Margaret Hall as that of "a Christian family," 
while Somerville claimed only to be "an English family." In spite 
of their emergence from friction the two halls co-operated amicably, 
and their Principals formed what Canon Scott Holland described as 
an "Unholy Alliance." The denominational controversy found 
echoes only in a provision that the Association for the Education of 
Women was to provide no lectures on religious subjects. 

1 The Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, volume Hi, quotes a letter from 
Mr Humphry Ward, written in 1924 to Miss Emily Penrose, then Principal of 
Somerville, which indicates that he was actually responsible for the name. Mr Ward 
wrote: "May I also claim on my own account a special interest in your college? 
I believe I first suggested its name. In or about 1870 I had been to Naples and had 
spent one evening with Miss [sic] Somerville and bad been much impressed by her; 
so that when the question arose, what woman distinguished in science or letters 
should give her name to the new *Hall, J as it then was, I was able to speak of her 
from personal knowledge." 


These two halls were small and unambitious compared with the 
Cambridge colleges, which had moved far ahead of them in both 
status and external support. Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville 
were not founded or endowed in so far as they had any endow- 
ments at all for the traditional academic purpose of supporting 
poor scholars who intended to serve their generation in Church or 
State; they were modestly designed for women who would want, it 
was supposed, to return after two or three years to domestic life, and 
at first they concerned themselves only with the residential needs of 
these students. 

It was the function of the Association, destined to be known for 
four decades as the A.E.W., to take charge of their education, and 
thus to act as a bond uniting the clerical and the non-sectarian groups. 
This body also formed an unofficial link between the halls and the 
university, which for thirty years augustly disclaimed responsibility 
for the women within its precincts. 

The policy of the A.E.W. became one of peaceful penetration 
under three successive male Chairmen, the Rev. T. H. Grose, of 
Queen's College, Professor Arthur Sidgwick, and Professor W. M. 
Geldart. Equally dedicated was the first Secretary to the Association, 
Professor T. H. Green, succeeded after his death by Dr S. H. 

By means of the little white paper pamphlets which represented 
its Reports the A.E.W. was to keep women's presence at Oxford 
steadily before the academic bodies which officially ignored it. These 
Reports alone provided information on their progress, showing how 
the students increased in number as lecture subjects and examinations 
were gradually made available to them, and reflecting the growth 
of a tutorial system within the women's societies until they gradu- 
ated from glorified boarding-schools to the dignity of colleges. 

Since for the first five years neither Lady Margaret Hall nor 
Somerville had a resident tutor, the A.E.W. had to arrange for all 
lectures and tutorials (then and for many years afterwards known as 
Cachings'). Its duties ranged from the payment of academic fees 
to the provision of chaperons, who accompanied the students to all 
their assignments. No study has ever been made of the mental condi- 
tion of these chaperons after listening for hours on end to unrelated 
fragments of information. They maintained their sanity by knitting 
or, more rarely, sketching. 

The lectures, held at the A.E.W. lecture-room in Alfred Street 


(later Pusey Street), were mostly repetitions of instruction given pre- 
viously to men. They were directed towards the examinations estab- 
lished in 1875, when the university decided to give the Delegates for 
Local Examinations power to set special papers for women over 
eighteen who might, or might not, have worked in Oxford. 

One student quoted by Vera Farnell in her private memoir of the 
college went up to Somerville in 1884. In later years this student re- 
called that the question-papers at her first examination had been 
handwritten. What struck her most about college life, she said after 
being a pupil at a large, well-organized school, was its "extreme 

The earliest A.E.W. Reports, in recording the financial side of 
these makeshift arrangements, illustrate the changing costs of tuition 
at Oxford in eighty years. The charge for lodgings in 1879 was about 
izs. a week, and an equivalent sum covered the student's board. If 
she lived with a private family the cost was from .1 $s. to .2 us. 6d. 
a week, *all found.* Lecture fees varied from i is. to ^2 zs. for the 
course; private 'coachings' for one hour a week brought the tutor 
from 2, to ^4 a term. 

"The cost of lectures and tuition does not, as a rule, exceed 25 
a year,'* ran the relevant paragraph of the information printed with 
the early Reports. 

The first A.E.W. Council included its President, the Rev. T. H. 
Grose; Mrs Arthur Johnson; Mrs T. H. Green; the Headmistress of 
the Oxford High School 2 ; and Annie M. A. H. Rogers. Its devoted 
officials worked gratis; the limited amount of clerical help required 
and the cost of hiring lecture-rooms were shared by all the women's 
societies. To the end of her long life Bertha Johnson retained a non- 
professional attitude towards the receipt of a salary, and refused to 
accept one even when officially appointed to her post by the uni- 

As soon as the A.E.W. began, Annie Rogers was ready, at twenty- 
two, to join its committee and take pupils. The following year she 
distinguished herself, first in Latin and Greek and later in Ancient 
History, in two of the new Honours examinations set up for 
women. Her training in these normally unfeminine subjects prob- 
ably came from her father, as proud of his one brilliant daughter 
as of his gifted sons. She was fortunate in her parentage, for her 

2 The Headmistress -was Miss Ada Benson from 1875 to 1879, and Miss Bishop 
from 1879 to 1887. 


mother also appreciated her an uncovenanted mercy for an Intel- 
lectual young woman at that period and shared all her Interests. 

They became close companions, living at a house in St Giles until 
the mother's death in 1899. Annie then moved to Museum Road, and 
stayed there for her remaining thirty-eight years. Symbolically, her 
whole life was spent on a square mile of Oxford territory. 

Between 1879 and 1920 Annie attended all but four committee 
meetings of the A.E.W., and after 1894 was Its Honorary Secretary. 
From the beginning she showed herself to be a natural tactician. 
Others came and went, but she remained consistently behind the 
scenes. Her preference for working with men, derived from early 
co-operation with her father, meant a complete absence of feminist 
prejudice in all her written, spoken, and administrative service for 
women. She was persistent, stable, and resourceful, fearless of un- 
popularity, and completely unintimidated by the age or status of any 

Lady Margaret Hall was named after the "pious and learned" 
Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, and the Hall 
adopted in her memory the Beaufort motto, "Souvent me souviens." 
Its first Principal, Elizabeth Wordsworth, suggested the name. In 
her book of memoirs, Glimpses of the Past, she wrote of their 
patroness: "She was a gentlewoman, a scholar, and a saint, and 
after having been three times married she took a vow of celibacy. 
What more could be expected of any woman ? " 

On October 16, 1879, the Bishop of Oxford formally opened the 
Hall, which then held nine students. The short service that he con- 
ducted Included a prayer written by Bishop Edward King, which 
has since been said at every meeting of the Hall's Council and Com- 
mittee. One room in the newly acquired house had been fitted up as 
a chapel, dedicated by Dr MacKarness seven years afterwards. On 
Sundays, in conscientious obedience to the original decree making 
"full provision" for the denominational idiosyncrasies of non- 
Anglicans, the students were permitted to worship where they 

The original home of Lady Margaret Hall lay between the Uni- 
versity Parks and the river Cherwell. It was the last house on the 
south side of Norham Gardens, a pseudo-Gothic * family residence' 
in white brick, with chimneys which smoked perpetually when fires 
were lit. More encouraging was the open land to the east, allowing 


for further expansion if ever this should be demanded. North Oxford 
then rivalled the country for quiet, and Lady Margaret Hall seemed 
almost the final outpost of the city. Only water-meadows stretched 
beyond it towards the fields leading to Marston Ferry. 

When the Hall opened, its "chaperoned family life" suggested 
the future college of 170 students only to the most hopeful imagina- 
tion, but the circulars issued to the public, asking for support, out- 
lined with commendable though somewhat portentous optimism the 
objects of this small educational "cell" : 

The precedents at Cambridge and Dublin render it highly probable 
that the numbers availing themselves of such education will be large, 
and that a sound influence will then be exercised directly on the 
character and culture of English women, and indirectly (through 
teachers and others trained under the system) upon the life of English 
families and schools. 

This grandiose aim, which time was so abundantly to justify, con- 
trasted somewhat oddly with the homely task of furnishing the ugly 
litde white villa (later euphemistically known as "the Old Hall"). 
The total cost amounted to ^454 6s. $d. One of the older students, 
Edith Argles, the daughter of Canon Argles, of Barnack Rectory, 
and afterwards the first Vice-Principal of the Hall, offered to stain 
the floors at her own expense. 

"But of the cleaning," wrote Miss Wordsworth in a letter, "it may 
be afterwards emphatically said that * there's the rub.' " 

The usual anxiety (for women) about endowment funds had pre- 
ceded the opening of both halls, and meetings were held in London, 
Reading, and Birmingham to encourage the courageous friends who 
had promised donations. 

A distinguished group of Oxford dons gave lectures to the first 
Lady Margaret Hall students in modest rooms over a baker's shop 
in Great Clarendon Street. Later they moved to a former Baptist 
chapel in the garden behind Pusey House. These students inevitably 
came from Miss Wordsworth's social and clerical world; such names 
as Tait, Benson, and Talbot figure prominently in the early register. 
In spite of the provision for religious liberty, most of them were 
both Anglican and upper middle class. 

Thus, from the outset, Miss Wordsworth established a tradition 
and set the 'tone' of her college. Her students resembled daughters 
at home, with a unique, original, and much-respected mother who 
knew every one worth knowing. 


Elizabeth Wordsworth had been appointed "the first Lady Prin- 
cipal" on November 21, 1878. She was then thirty-eight, remained 
Principal for thirty years, and survived to the age of ninety-two. 
Long after she had given the best part of her life to Lady Margaret 
Hall the university conferred on her, in 1921, the honorary degree 
of M.A. Seven years later, when she was eighty-eight, came the 
honorary D.C.L. and the D.B.E. Her portrait, painted by Charles 
Shannon in 1894, showing an impressive woman in a grey Victorian 
dress, hangs in the college dining-hall. 

The future Dame Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Dr Chris- 
topher Wordsworth, Headmaster of Harrow at the time of her birth, 
and later Bishop of Lincoln. His father, another Christopher, the 
Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, had been brother to William 
and Dorothy Wordsworth. Her intelligence, partially trained by the 
inevitable governesses, developed further through the sympathetic 
companionship of the future Bishop. Between 1864 an d 1931 she 
produced forty-four publications, which included poems, plays, 
printed addresses to students, two novels issued under a pseudonym, 
and memoirs, more reticent than her conversation, entitled Glimpses 
of the Past. Her chief work was the biography of her father, pub- 
lished in 1888. 

The invitation to be Principal of Lady Margaret Hall came 
through Dr Talbot, of Keble. When she received it her brother John, 
then a Fellow of Brasenose College, and later Bishop of Salisbury, 
remarked morosely, "Well, if I thought your not going would put 
an end to the whole thing, I should say 'Don't go,' but as I don't 
think it will, I think you had better accept." 

Like her brother, Elizabeth Wordsworth was not a pioneer, but 
she proved to have the courage to take a new road when she saw it. 
In spite of a working knowledge of French, German, and Italian, 
and a persevering familiarity with the Greek Testament and the 
Iliad, which she had read with the help of a Latin translation at the 
rate of fifty lines a day, she never came anywhere near the normal 
standards of exact scholarship. But she had insight, humour, and 
imagination, heightened by a creative force, difficult to define with- 
out direct knowledge, which made those who had worked with her 
feel when she died that a whole age, complete in itself, had moved 
into a living past rather than ended. 

At that time the late Professor Elizabeth Levett wrote of her: "No 
one troubled as to what Miss Wordsworth was not." She added that 


in the early nineteen-thirties, when Dame Elizabeth had passed 
ninety, "she alone o the older women seemed young enough to look 
forward with unfailing hope." 

Miss Wordsworth represented to perfection her generation, con- 
scientiously groping towards better educational standards for women; 
she was Victorianism at its best, with a few lively diversions from 
the conventional pattern which included a love of fresh air and 
exercise. This unexpected quality sent her tramping round the Parks, 
and later caused her to take up cycling and become a staunch advo- 
cate of games. These occupations were somewhat incompatible with 
her customary mode of dressing. When she was fifty her cap and 
wide-sleeved dress, with its high collar emerging from a long fur 
stole, made her appear older than most women of seventy in the 

Personal memories of Miss Wordsworth record that throughout 
her life she combined such austerities as a cold bath with an engaging 
disregard for conventional business practices; she kept the college 
correspondence in a shoe-box, and sent out Hall prospectuses inside 
used envelopes an economy probably emulated only by Mrs Arthur 
Johnson before the paper shortage of the Second World War. After 
her retirement she rapidly became a legend, inspiring stories as 
numerous and apocryphal as those related of Benjamin Jowett and 
Dr Archibald Spooner. 

Notwithstanding her formative influence on two Oxford colleges 
after the later foundation of St Hugh's, Miss Wordsworth saw Lady 
Margaret Hall as the extension of her own youthful privileges to a 
wider family circle. She had no great sympathy with die aspirations 
of modern women scholars, and was more interested in a girl's 
religious outlook than in any claim to her 'rights.' The ideal 
student, in her own words, was "better with the hands than the 
head, and best of all with the heart." 

Small domestic troubles seemed to her more important than the 
problems of "Pass Mods." or Logic; she made no secret of rating 
goodness above cleverness, though she thought that "Adam was a 
poor thing till he had Eve." In spite of this estimate of piety as 
superior to brains, she never suffered fools or bores patienitly, and 
developed a highly skilled technique for leaving committee meetings 
that fatigued her, and for getting rid of tedious individuals without 
discourtesy or delay. 

J4o one appears to have resented this accomplishment, since she 


herself proved to be a caustic, brilliant talker who never bored others. 
She soon lived down her depressing initial reputation for extreme 
respectability, and became known as the best company In Oxford. 
Buttressed by her popularity, she could pick and choose her society, 
and clearly preferred the heretics at Balliol to her worthy fellow- 
Anglicans at Keble. 

This capacity for original conversation, in an Oxford which has 
often preferred scintillating after-dinner wit to profound scholarship, 
gave her a unique status which she was able to transfer to her college 
at a time when women were at Oxford on sufferance. Many influen- 
tial scholars, such as Dr Liddon of Christ Church and Dean John 
Burgon, detested their very presence in the university. One contem- 
porary caricature showed Dean Burgon ill in bed, seeing himself in 
a nightmare surrounded by siren-like women doctors and students 
of science. 

Modern Somerville's scientific sixth Principal, Dame Janet 
Vaughan, would probably have represented, could he have foreseen 
her dynamic vitality, the quintessence of his nervous dread. Miss 
Wordsworth had no ambition to rival Dame Janet's qualifications, 
and this tranquil realism, combined with her unimpeachable ante- 
cedents, made her presence a welcome reassurance to frightened male 
dons. How sustaining, with its famous connotations, was the very 
sound of her name! No other, said Dr Talbot when he first proposed 
to invite her, "could have been a greater protection against any 
charge of rashness in our attempt." 

As it happened, the undenominational group which founded 
Somerville HaU had actually chosen, in Miss Madeleine Septimia 
Shaw Lefevre, a principal whose distinguished origins were almost 
as comforting as those of her colleague at Lady Margaret Hall. The 
two women, so similar in age, dignity, and background, com- 
pletely avoided the friction prophesied as inevitable between their 

They shared a greater interest in human beings than in education, 
and Miss Shaw Lefevre found in philanthropy the inspiration derived 
by Miss Wordsworth from religion. She learned to know her 
students by such characteristics as the way that they walked, and did 
not grudge lending one of the more impoverished her own hat and 
jacket so that she could attend a university function. 

Madeleine Shaw Lefevre's family was as impeccably rooted in the 
political world as Miss Wordsworth's in the clerical. Her father, Sir 


John George Shaw-Lefevre, 3 of Ascot, had been a Senior Wrangler 
at Cambridge who became Under-Secretary to the Colonies, and was 
Vice-Chancellor of London University for twenty years. Her brother, 
succeeding his uncle who had been a Speaker of the House of 
Commons, became Lord Eversley. In her youth she herself took part 
in public works of considerable variety; they included a Committee 
for Befriending Young Servants. 

Unlike Elizabeth Wordsworth, Miss Shaw Lefevre had no pre- 
vious connexion with Oxford, and when she was appointed as 
Somerville's first Principal on May 3, 1879, triree days before her 
forty-fourth birthday, she remarked that she "felt quite unsuited." 
Clara Pater, that graceful embodiment of aesthetic leisure whose 
"grave and noble beauty in youth*' Mrs Humphry Ward com- 
mended, soon made good the new Principal's unfamiliarity with 
the university. But Miss Shaw Lefevre stayed only for ten years at 
Somerville, though she continued to serve on the college Council 
till her death in 1914. 

She was a keen amateur artist, and passed the weary hours that 
even she had to spend on chaperonage in making sketches. Her assets 
included her friendship with Ruskin, who at first reacted strongly 
against the idea of a women's college. Eventually she prevailed on 
him to take tea with her there, and he penitently presented some 
valuable gifts of jewellery, books, and paintings. One volume was 
a birthday book in which he wrote, "So glad to be old enough to 
be let come and have tea at Somerville and to watch the girlies play 
at ball." 

Contemporary recollections of Miss Shaw Lefevre stress her care- 
fully chosen, womanly clothes and love of gardening; they remark 
also upon her stateliness and serenity. Her portrait by Jacomb Hood 
in Somerville College dining-hall shows a calm, handsome face, 
supported on one hand, its oval length emphasized by the high-piled 
grey hair dressed in Pompadour style which suggests a Gainsborough 
picture. The flowing black dress and the high chair in which she 
sits make clear to the spectator that she was a tall, graceful woman. 

Though Somerville owed a great debt to her poise and charm, 
which disarmed agitated critics, her contribution could not, in one 
decade, equal Miss Wordsworth's influence at Lady Margaret Hall 

8 In the Dictionary of National Biography \ the name of Miss Shaw Lefevre's father 
is given as Sir John George Shaw-Lefevre. She appears to have discarded the 
hyphen, as both Somerville's private histories describe her without it. 


or probably that of any other Somervllle head. But being, as well as 
the founder Principal, a subject with a real claim to classical beauty, 
she continues to occupy the central position behind the High Table, 
and to eclipse with her characteristic elegance most of the later 

Before taking office Miss Shaw Lefevre went to Cambridge to 
consult Miss dough, who, like herself, was superlatively feminine. 
Miss Ciough wisely counselled her that it was unnecessary to follow 
the Newnham pattern without deviation, but the likelihood of 
Somerville's imitating Newnham or any other college soon became 

When Somerville Hall opened in October 1879 on ty seven of its 
twelve students could be accommodated in the grey, wistaria-covered 
house, known as Walton Manor, of which a five years* lease had been 
purchased for jT6oo. The only resident scout (college servant) slept 
in the one bathroom on the ground floor beside the front entrance, 
and each student had a zinc bath, which she kept under her bed. 

The house, then just over fifty years old, was lighted by gas and 
oil-lamps like similar houses of the period. The Council which in- 
cluded Dr Percival as Chairman and Miss Eleanor Smith, the dog- 
loving originator of the 1866 lectures eventually bought it from St 
John's College for ^7000. Unlike Lady Margaret Hall, it was con- 
veniently situated inside the main university precincts; the chief 
A.E.W, lectures lay within walking distance of its front door on St 
Giles Road West (now Woodstock Road), 

This still convenient position, within easy cycling range of most 
university lectures, meant that the Hall had a disadvantage not 
shared by the three other nineteenth-century foundations; its 3j4 
acres of land were hemmed in to the north and east by large, irre- 
movable objects, the RadclifJe Infirmary and the Catholic Church 
of St Aloysius. When time brought pressure on space the college, 
lying between Woodstock Road and Walton Street, found that it 
could expand only by reconstituting existing structures or building 
upon its own limited territory. 

At first, owing to the uncertain future of women in Oxford, no 
such expansion was contemplated. The high walls of the manor- 
house garden not only kept the little community secluded from the 
dangers of the city, but concealed the students from the more con- 
servative residents alarmed by the invasion of 'learned women/ 


Visitors bold enough to penetrate this citadel of modern advance- 
ment approached the house by a carriage drive leading from St Giles 
Road West past a coach-house and two cottages, more picturesque 
than hygienic. Luxuriant lime-trees, long vanished, made a canopy 
for the drive, where two ravens walked with dignified tread. Occa- 
sionally they were ousted by "Nobby," a rotund pony attached to a 
basket carriage which the students could hire for expeditions to 
Abingdon or Bagley Wood. 

Behind the house stretched a large garden with fine old trees, and 
a field "bright with buttercups and apple-blossom" which delighted 
the artistic eye of the first Principal. At the Walton Street end, 
beyond the field, a gardener's cottage and some small farm buildings 
occupied by two cows and a pig added to the rural attractions of the 

Like Lady Margaret Hall, the Victorian house had to be newly 
equipped for its scholastic occupants. Furniture, generously given by 
well-wishers, was typical of the period, if somewhat haphazard; it 
added character to the American walnut suites purchased from a 
wholesale firm in Limehouse. Miss Mary Ewart presented a grand 
piano; Mrs Humphry Ward, still busy sending out circulars, con- 
tributed some pieces of the fashionable blue pottery, and a set of 
framed photographs and engravings to adorn the Morris wallpaper 
in the old drawing-room. More extravagant than its counterpart 
at Lady Margaret Hall, the Council went to HeaPs for the college 

Its generous benefactors included many leading nineteenth- 
century scholars, united by their belief in the powers of women. 
Arthur Sidgwick, of Corpus Christi, "the rebel of them all" and 
one of Oxford's most brilliant classical teachers, had espoused every 
liberal cause which took root in conservative Oxford, and was use- 
fully unintimidated by embattled prejudice. 

Thus the new college sprang from a rare combination of intellec- 
tual integrity and spiritual independence, marked by a tolerant atti- 
tude towards differences of opinion and the innovations demanded 
by time. In her Somerville reminiscences Vera Farnell adds, "A 
certain tendency to eccentricity may sometimes accompany these 
admirable qualities." 

The Somerville family, conditioned to eccentricity by a pioneer 
scholar, allowed the Hall to take their arms, a crescent moon and 
stars. Allied to these astronomical symbols was a mysterious 


motto "Donee rursus implcat orbem "-which was alleged to have 
been used by Henry II o France. 

Though this Latin sentence has so far defied decisive interpreta- 
tion, 4 it was courageously used as the basis for a college song written 
in 1903 by Helen Darbishire, later a Somerville principal, and two of 
her student contemporaries. The first verse, sung like the two others 
to the Welsh air "Cwynfan Prydain," ran as follows: 

Omnes laetae nunc sodales 

Concinentes gaudio 
Uno corde conferamus 

Laudem huic collcgio; 
Conditum quod olim jure 

Nunc integritate stat 
Atque permanebk orbem 

Donee rursus impleat. 

When Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville were founded, thirty- 
five students who wanted to benefit by the new opportunities for 
women at Oxford were still left living in their own homes or the 
households of friends. A tendency to describe them as "the un- 
attached" eventually succumbed (in 1891) to a suggestion by Dr 
Jackson, Rector of Exeter, that the name of "Oxford Home 
Students" should be given to them. Miss Ruth Butler, the private 
historian of the Home Students, speculated in her book on the possi- 
bility that this name came from one of BosweH's Journals, where a 
reference occurs to the "home students" of Glasgow University. 

After numerous vicissitudes this unorthodox body wa.s to become, 
in the nmeteen-fifties, St Anne's College, without losing all the 
characteristics which had distinguished it from the halls. Unlike the 
other four Oxford women's colleges, St Anne's was never founded, 
but "just grew." The indefatigable Arthur Sidgwick became the 
Honorary Secretary and later the Chairman of this non-collegiate 

The Victoria County History of Oxfordshire comments: 

The recognition of a non-collegiate body of women was remarkable. 
No such body has ever developed at Cambridge, and in some sense the 

4 Miss Famell made two ingenious attempts: "Until be replenish once again the 
round (/>., world?)" and "Until the part (crescent moon?) becomes again the per- 
fect whole." A translation which does justice to the possible dotible entendre concern- 
ing both the phases of the moon and the Scriptural reference to God's glory filling 
the world, would be: "Until again He fills the orb.'* 


Home Students had actually outstripped their male counterparts in 
Oxford, the Non-Collegiate, who had not yet acquired the tide of 

In 1910 the annual A.E.W. Report attributed this development to 
the wisdom and discretion of Mrs Arthur Johnson, who created from 
a scattered collection of students the unique organization which ulti- 
mately received the same recognition as the colleges from the uni- 

The future "Home Students" of 1879 became the direct responsi- 
bility of the A.E.W.'s Woman Secretary, first Mrs T. H. Green and 
later Mrs Johnson. Each student of the three existing 'societies' had 
now to register as a student of the Association and to abide by its 
rules, but the A.E.W. especially fostered the Home Students. Its 
more conservative officials doubtless regarded them as a safer and less 
revolutionary variant of the 'new woman' than the residents of the 

"Regulation /" of an early A.E.W. Report defines a typical pro- 
hibition which the Home Students had to observe: "Not to visit 
College rooms or University lodgings unless accompanied by the lady 
with whom they are residing, or by a relation of suitable age, or 
by some lady officially connected with the Association or the 

In her contribution to the private history of the Home Students 
Miss C. M. E. Burrows, their principal for nine years, mentions posts 
held by four who married among the first twenty-two. 

One, the Hon. Isabel Bruce, sister of Somerville's long-time Vice- 
Principal, Alice Bruce, was head of Aberdare College at Cardiff; 
another, M. R. Earle, was appointed a lecturer at Newnham College. 
A third, Julia Arnold, the future mother of Julian and Aldous 
Huxley, married Leonard Huxley and became the headmistress of 
her own private school. 

No adequate study has ever been made of the talents bequeathed 
to their sons and daughters by brilliant women whose identities have 
been submerged owing to the British custom of taking a husband's 
name on marriage, without the compensating Spanish habit of pre- 
serving the mother's name. 

The fourth student, E. M. K. Kendall, was an American, who 
subsequently distinguished herself in the academic world by becom- 
ing Professor of History at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. 

The necessary elasticity o the Home Students' system made it of 


special value to older students for whom the chance o an early col- 
lege education had not existed. It also appealed to women who were 
compelled to live even more modestly than the occupants of the halls, 
and to graduates of other universities reading for research degrees. 
Many of these graduates came from abroad; they included not only 
many Americans, but French, Germans, Swiss, Scandinavians, 
Greeks, Italians, Russians, Indians, and Japanese. 

"Have we been anticipating a little the work of the League of 
Nations, with our alumnae all over the world?" Bertha Johnson 
asked in her farewell address. Actually the Society of Oxford Home 
Students, in its early days, organized an educational liaison not dis- 
similar from the work now done by the International Federation of 
University Women. 

Whether these pioneer students lived at home or came from the 
twenty-one members of the two halls, they knew a quiet Oxford of 
horse-drawn vehicles in which the university overshadowed, as it 
always had, the modest market town. No hint yet appeared of the 
twentieth-century industrial invasion which was to transform the 
ancient streets, coming in from the hitherto Inconspicuous village of 
Cowley to link the expanding city with other communities lying on 
its borders. 

Nobody even imagined that, within the lifetime of the half- 
nervous, half-excited, but wholly dedicated young women at Lady 
Margaret Hall and Somerville, the noise emanating from that village 
would drown with its toots and blasts the morning bells of the Uni- 
versity Church and the evening boom from Tom Tower, 5 now in- 
spiringly audible above the placid trot of chaise-drawing ponies. No 
one visualized the bicycles which would lean in their thousands from 
cobbled streets against venerable walls. 

Walking in twos and threes, or discreetly riding in hansom-cabs, 
the students from St Giles and the distant suburb of North Oxford 
might travel on Sundays to hear Dr Pusey, with his square, pale, 
earnest face, give a university sermon, or observe Dr Liddon, who 
thought them inimical to the wise precedents of Christian Oxford, 
preaching passionately in the Cathedral. At their lectures they could 
listen to Mandell Creighton on History or Arnold Toynbee on 
Political Economy, or follow another good friend, Lewis Netdeship 
of Balliol, as he unfolded the mysteries of Philosophy. Even the 
author of Alice in Wonderland, with his wavy, grizzled hair and 
5 The tower above the gateway at Christ Church. 


preoccupied light grey eyes, might be discovered among the clergy 
at St Mary's. 

If the young women chose to stroll in the Parks they could see their 
once powerful supporter, Mark Pattison, keen-faced but now 
emaciated, being pushed round the gravel paths as a stricken invalid 
in a bath-chair. After his death his wife and Professor Bywater pre- 
sented five hundred of his books to Somerville. As the Hall had still 
no library, these volumes were accommodated on shelves in the 

A few students went riding; and hockey, played with sticks which 
cost 4^4 d. each, soon became fashionable. At Somerville Lilian Faith- 
full, later Headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies' College, became the 
first hockey captain. Beyond these few pursuits their freedom was 
limited; they could not go into the town alone just to buy a bun at 
the nearest shop, or attend lectures and 'coachings' without the inevi- 
table chaperon. Even their right to sit for examinations seemed a little 
obscure. But, whatever might be a student's family background, with 
its problems and disturbances, she had at college the peace essential 
to all concentrated work and the power to be alone whenever she 

To suffer some humiliating restrictions, and by cautious behaviour 
avoid any occasion of offence to their unofficial and unconvinced 
university hosts, seemed to the students a small price to pay for such 
unaccustomed freedom. With it a new realization had come into 
their lives; they had discovered that loyalty, from women as from 
men, could be claimed, in Bernard Shaw's words, by "a purpose 
and that a mighty one," with at least as much justification as by the 
domestic duties which had hitherto almost exclusively demanded 

In the process of serving this purpose they were learning to use 
their faculties; to recognize and define their aims; to develop a respect 
for accurate knowledge which was no longer the monopoly of one 
sex; and to endure failure and disappointment, if it came, with the 
consciousness that part of a pioneer's equipment was the refusal to 
accept defeat. 

Inevitably these first students felt that they had embarked on a 
great experiment, glamorous with the childlike zest that enhances 
every new discovery. They and their pioneer contemporaries at Cam- 
bridge possessed a special quality of enthusiasm which no generation 
of university women would ever experience again. 


"They had the stimulus (new to women) of feeling that much was 
expected of them," wrote Lady Stephen of the students at Girton 

and they rose gallantly to the occasion. There were of course moments 
of discontent and disappointment, but the whole thing was an adven- 
ture, and a mixture, as all great adventures should be, of the highest 
spirits with the most intense determination. Experiences such as this 
cannot last, and cannot be repeated. 

Chapter 4: Unofficially Present 


evident that unless they were admitted to at least some of the univer- 
sity examinations taken by men, and on the same conditions, the 
movement for their higher education would fail. Future employers 
would never be persuaded and rightly that a special women's 
examination was the 'real thing.* 

The attempt, in 1884, to establish a claim to the 'real thing' was 
the first of six memorable struggles which marked the relationship of 
women students to Oxford University. The other five occurred in 
1896, 1910, 1920, 1927, and 1948. Strangely enough, the first contro- 
versy was one of the more profitable, 

In 1882, after a few women had done creditably in the special 
examination, the Delegacy for Local Examinations became sympa- 
thetic to their demands for more equal treatment. A London meeting 
arranged by the Humphry Wards carried this pressure a stage 
farther, and in the Hilary term of 1884 the A.E.W. presented a peti- 
tion, signed by 122 members of Congregation, requesting that 
women might be allowed to sit for some of the ordinary Honours 
examinations. To everybody's surprise, a statute permitting their use 
of "Honour Mods/' (the first of the two Honours examinations in 
Llierac Humaniores) and of the Final Honours Schools of Mathe- 
matics, Natural Science, and Modern History was carried by 464 
votes to 321. 

One explanation subsequently given for its successful passage was 
the Anglican foundation of Lady Margaret Hall, which brought 
favourable votes from many clergymen. Another stressed the recent 
opening of the Tripos examinations to women at Cambridge the 
only other university to which Oxford pays much attention, though 
this respectful attitude was not to be reciprocated by Cambridge for 
twenty-seven years after Oxford gave degrees to women. 

A Cambridge success of 1880, when Charlotte A. Scott, of Girton, 
was placed equal to the eighth Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos 


list, had turned public attention to the anomalous position of the 
women in Cambridge University. A memorial spontaneously started 
by Mr and Mrs W. S. Aldis, of Newcastle upon Tyne, asked that 
Cambridge women should be recognized, and admitted not only to 
examinations, but to University degrees. This unexpected interest all 
over the country alarmed Girton and Newnham, which feared 
retaliation by the university and the loss of even their existing privi- 

After the question had been considered by a syndicate appointed 
by the Senate, which recommended that women should be allowed to 
take the Previous and Tripos examinations on the same terms as 
members of the university, but that the Poll degree examinations 
should be closed to them, the Senate voted in 1881. The 'Graces' 
granting the regular admission of women to the examinations actu- 
ally passed by 398 votes to 32, as most of their opponents refrained 
from voting. 

There was henceforth no more fear of Cambridge examiners 
refusing to examine women. "What we gain," wrote Emily Davies 
to Barbara Bodichon, "is that what we have been doing all along 
by favour, will now be secured as a right." 

Six years afterwards Agnata Frances Ramsay, a Girton student 
from St Leonard's School, St Andrews, became the only candidate 
placed in the first division of the First Class of the Classical Tripos; 
none of the men taking the examination that year was placed higher 
than the second division. The women's friends immediately raised 
the degree question again, but this time the Senate refused even to 
appoint a syndicate to consider it. The position gained in 1881 was to 
remain unaltered for nearly forty years. 

The Oxford statute of 1884 did not refer to Residence* for the 
examinees, nor did it allow them to sit for any of the intermediate 
examinations on which the qualification for a degree depended. It 
merely permitted the Delegates for Local Examinations, who had 
been furnishing special papers for women since 1875, to substitute 
some of the university examinations taken by men. 

Nevertheless, as the sponsors of the petition had doubtless fore- 
seen, this success proved to be the first pushing ajar of a door which 
was soon to open more widely. Within the next ten years women 
were to be accepted not only for Responsions (the first examination 
admitting students taking a degree course to the university), but for 
all the dJegree examinations in Arts and Music, for Jurisprudence, 


and for "Greats" (the second and Final examination in Literae 
Humaniorcs Le., Classics, History, and Philosophy). 

By 1894 all the other examinations had been opened to women, 
including Medicine, which was one of the last. Some of the present 
Honours schools were still not officially recognized, and only women 
sat for them. These included English Language and Literature, to 
which the university remained implacably opposed up to 1895, and 
Modern Languages, which was not a Final Honours school until 
1904. The women who had sat for these examinations before the 
university instituted them for everybody were subsequently refused 
retrospective degrees. 1 

In the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, volume iii, the 
following significant comment on the various examinations newly 
available to women occurs in the section devoted to St Anne's College 
(the Society of Oxford Home Students until 1942) : 

By a curious irony, the University continued till 1910 to publish in 
its Examination Statutes the statement that only a member of the 
University could take these examinations, though they had been 
thrown open to women by Statute, women were residing in Oxford 
for the express purpose of taking them, and women's names were pub- 
lished in the Class Lists. 

In many ways the whole position of women at Oxford was ... a 
stage secret. Students attended lectures, were taught by University 
tutors, and took the Degree examinations, achieving a high level of 
Honours, but the University was officially blind to their existence, lay- 
ing down no regulations as to their residence, discipline, or education. 

As soon as the 1884 statute was passed a Somerville student of 1881, 
Margaret Seward, entered for Honours in Mathematics. 2 For ten 
years, with a correct valuation of its importance, students from the 
women's colleges annually celebrated the opening of the Honours 
schools. But the immediate results were restricted; only a small 
minority of the few women then in Oxford were personally affected. 

These limited consequences had not prevented a storm typical of the 
period from raging while the statute was under discussion. Excited 
opponents revealed their emotions in letters, fly-sheets, and sermons 
which overwhelmed tike few sensible arguments, such as the criticism 
that not enough evidence of the effect of systematic study on women's 

1 See Chapter 8, page 160. 

2 She took a Second in Mathematical Moderations in 1 884 and a First in Chemistry 
Finals in 1885. 


minds and bodies had yet been provided. One fly-sheet referred, in 
true contemporary style, to "the more refined, delicate and domestic 
nature of women and the dangers of an unrestricted course of reading 
and study to the future mothers and teachers of our race/' 

Some of the letters to the Press ran to a prolixity which would now 
ensure their rejection by any editor. Opponents of the statute included 
Mrs Inge, mother of the future Dean of St Paul's, who wrote three 
letters, and "an Oxford mother," who wrote two. "A Liberal Mem- 
ber of Congregation " foresaw a new menace, which he expounded in 
The Times in far from liberal language : 

The truth is that if the Statute passes the real control of women's 
education will be for the future not in the hands of the University at 
all, but where many persons think it ought to be, in the hands of 
women themselves. That may be an excellent thing for women 
though in view of their present demands I am not quite prepared to 
concede the point but I cannot pretend to see how it is a good tiling 
for the University. 

Dr Percival replied with quiet irony : 

It is somewhat amusing to see the alarm of these opponents of the 
Statute lest women should come to control the education of Oxford, 
while they themselves seem to have no hesitation in assuming to 
restrict, control, and direct the education of women. 

These milder aspects of the controversy left untouched the more 
agitated members of the opposition, such as Dr Liddon, Dr Pusey 
(who described the establishment of women's halls as "one of the 
greatest misfortunes that have happened even in our own time in 
Oxford"), and Dean Burgon (who maintained that "the modesty 
of nature" was being "overstepped"). On Trinity Sunday 1884 Dr 
Burgon preached a sermon in New College Chapel which concluded 
with a short "allocution" to women. 

"Inferior to us God made you, and inferior to the end of time you 
will remain. But you are not the worse off for that" 

Contemporary records report that the congregation laughed aloud, 
but the good Dean, undeterred by this hilarity, subsequently pub- 
lished his sermon under the provocative title "To educate young 
women like young men and with young men a thing inexpedient 
and immodest." He submitted it, he added, "to the judgment of the 
Mothers of England." 

Annie M. A. H. Rogers no doubt with the usual realistic glee 


collected these museum-pieces of prejudice for her book Degrees by 
Degrees. But, in spite of such donnish diatribes, anti-feminist senti- 
ments never developed so acutely at Oxford as at Cambridge. From 
the beginning Oxford had moved more slowly and quietly, but there 
were also technical reasons which made the women less terrifying to 
the university. 

The Oxford method of publishing class lists in alphabetical order 
after Schools 3 meant that no woman was spotlighted for brilliant and 
alarming distinctions, such as those gained at Cambridge by Agnata 4 
Ramsay and Philippa Fawcett, who in 1890 was placed "above the 
Senior Wrangler" in the Mathematical Tripos examination. 

The Press had a tiresome habit of writing up these triumphs. 
Agnata Ramsay's achievement, for instance, was celebrated by Punch 
with a George du Maurier cartoon showing Mr Punch ushering Miss 
Ramsay into a railway compartment marked "First Class, For Ladies 
Only." This did not help to allay the anxieties of perturbed male 
dons still nervous about the level of feminine attainments. The 
Oxford women's class lists, with their substantial number of Firsts 
and Seconds quietly following a long table of masculine names, were 
less susceptible to Press attention than the isolated fireworks at Cam- 

At this date as Bishop Creighton's daughter, Gemma Bailey, 
recorded in her short history of Lady Margaret Hall from 1879 to 
1923 the position of women students was still imprecise, and their 
best friends did not agree on what they should be and do. The need 
to walk warily existed not only in the eighteen-eighties but right up 
to 1920, when for the first time, with full membership of the univer- 
sity, the footing of women in Oxford became secure. 

For all its advantages the statute of 1884 had created an absurd 
anomaly, as the anonymous writer on St Anne's in the Victoria 
County History has shown; from that date until 1910 the university 
admitted women to its degree examinations without issuing any 
decrees regarding place, fees, and the conditions of sitting for the 
papers, or even protecting itself against possible abuses of their 
indefinite status by this growing body of 'paying guests/ The 
A.E.W. did most of what the university left undone, and en- 
deavoured by means of organization and registration to define the 
strange position of the women who were unofficially present. 

3 Separate lists were published for men and women until 

4 Some reference books give her name as Agneta* 


From the beginning the new students had attracted a sturdy con- 
tingent of male supporters, whose teaching brought many o them 
into personal contact with minds outstanding even at Oxford. 
Typified by such stalwart liberals as Arthur Sidgwick and Dr Perci- 
val, these friends had not only pushed through the recent statute, but 
in their individual colleges were making additional lectures available 
to women. Balliol, Exeter, and Corpus Christi took the lead in this 
new form of co-operation, in spite of the strong initial prejudice of 
the undergraduates against the supposed 'blue-stockings* who were 
invading Oxford. 

The men, who liked to invite their sisters, respectably chaperoned, 
to college functions, had quite a different attitude towards their parti- 
cipation in college lectures. One Home Student, later Mrs Percy 
Matheson, recalled long afterwards how she and her contemporaries 
crept shyly into lectures, holding their notebooks under their jackets. 
When another, who subsequently became Mrs Arthur Evans, ob- 
tained permission to attend a lecture at Corpus Christi by Arthur 
Sidgwick, all the undergraduates stood outside the hall until the 
lecturer arrived, and then placed themselves as far as possible from 
the female intruder. 

Mrs Arthur Johnson, whose own innate conservatism perhaps 
gave her a private sympathy with masculine bias, described this 
behaviour as "a thoroughly gentlemanly aloofness." It was never- 
theless responsible, far more than the nervousness of "Lady Prin- 
cipals/' for the chaperonage system with all its fatiguing obligations. 

In an article in Oxford, the publication of the Oxford Society, 
written in 1956, when she was ninety-three, Elizabeth M. Wright, 
author of the Life of Joseph Wright, recalled a visit to a well-known 
bookshop in Broad Street. Inquiring for a local map, she was 
haughtily told, " We have only maps of Oxford. You would want the 

Mrs Wright, who went up to Lady Margaret HaU in 1887, ob- 
tained a First in English. During 1890 she attended lectures in the 
dingy A.E. W. rooms, which were approached through a garden full of 
clothes-props behind Pusey House. Though the halls (by then three) 
had each a principal and vice-principal, there were as yet no resident 
tutors at Lady Margaret Hall, and no tutors at all for either the 
Literature or the Language side of the English examination. The 
students taking this then unofficial subject had to pick up what infor- 
mation they could from the lectures of tolerant historians who were 


willing, somewhat sporadically, to devote a few spare hours to the 
cause of women studying their native tongue. 

"I remember especially," says Mrs Wright, "Professor York 
Powell, who wore a black velvet coat and a floppy tie. He was always 
late and sometimes he never came at all." 

The scarcity of lectures and absence of tutorials left many quiet 
hours for uninterrupted study, varied in summer by long afternoon 
walks and in winter by visits to the theatre. Even when twelve 
students went together to see Julius Caesar the Vice-Principal had to 
accompany them, and a female escort was similarly necessary for 
concerts, Union debates, and the college barges during Eights Week. 

Women students were allowed to read in the Radcliffe Camera, 
but had to sit at the "Ladies' Table. " It is hardly surprising that 
when Mrs Wright first arrived for an interview at Lady Margaret 
Hall and her mother, who accompanied her, mentioned that her two 
sons had now both gone down from Oxford, Miss Wordsworth 
exclaimed, "What a blessing! " 

Foreseeing inquiries from readers of her article anxious to learn 
how undergraduates and women students managed to fall in love 
and marry, as a few did, Mrs Wright recalled two picturesque 
engagements. One occurred on the roof of the Radcliffe Camera, and 
the other in the less stimulating atmosphere of Holywell Churchyard. 

Janet Courtney, also a Lady Margaret Hall student of this period, 
has recorded the circumstances in which she was "coached" by her 
brother, then a tutor at Magdalen College. Though permission to 
enter the college had been obtained, she was obliged to use the back 
entrance from "Mesopotamia" (the field between two arms of the 
river close to Magdalen Bridge), so that she could not be seen 
coming and going by the undergraduates. 

These anxieties illustrated a lingering remnant of the monastic 
Oxford which had preceded the marriage of Fellows. But non- 
monastic communities other than those of the women were soon to 
change the character of the university. In 1885 Mansfield College 
formerly the Spring Hill College founded in Birmingham by George 
Mansfield and his sisters in 1838 for training future Congregational 
ministers arose between the Parks and Holywell Street, to be fol- 
lowed by Manchester College in 1893. A new freedom in theological 
teaching had come, like the women, to vary the ancient but now 
outdated pattern, and to command, with the University Extension 
movement, Benjamin Jowett's liberal support. 


In January 1883 a new weekly publication, founded by under* 
graduates but edited by dons, began to appear in time to estimate the 
effect of these changes on the university, though not, for some time, 
the women's share in them. 

The names of those who inspired this venture included D* S. 
MacColl, Michael Sadler, W. Hudson Shaw, Anthony Hope Haw- 
kins, and Cosmo Gordon Lang. Previous university reviews had 
come and gone; the Oxford Magazine was destined to outlast them 
all, and eventually to include, among its most memorable articles, 
accounts of the women's progress and the part played by individual 
women within the university. 

It had not, however, reached the point of taking an interest in 
them when a Women's Intercollegiate Debating Society was formed, 
which included, by the end of the decade, Lady Margaret Hall, 
Somerville, St Hugh's, and the Home Students. Although the 
Society, which met in the chilly atmosphere of the High School hall, 
died during the First World War, it helped to train such famous 
public speakers as Eleanor Rathbone, Maude Royden, and Margery 

A surviving invitation card from this "Associated Students' 
Debating Society" records its seventeenth meeting on Saturday, 
May 12, 1888, to discuss the motion "That the granting of some 
measure of legislative independence to Ireland at present will not tend 
to weaken the position of England as a Great Power." At their six- 
teenth meeting they had debated a controversial topic weighted with 
futurity: "That in the approaching struggle between France and 
Germany this House will give its sympathy to Germany." 

Some of the women speakers were already showing their quality; 
at the mock trial of a poacher the counsel for the prosecution was Ivy 
Williams, a Home Student, and subsequently the first woman to be 
called to the English Bar. Both Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville, 
in their opening decade, also registered some names which were to 
become familiar far beyond the limits of Oxford University. At Lady 
Margaret Hall they included Janet Elizabeth Hogarth, Eleanor 
Frances Jourdain, and Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, the 
greatest of her college generation. Among their Somerville contem- 
poraries were Lilian Mary Faithfull, Cornelia Sorabji, and Emily 


By 1881 the white villa in Norham Gardens had already proved 
inadequate for the needs of Lady Margaret Hall. Two building 
extensions, one in that year and the second in 1883, aimed, we are 
told in the first college Report, at "raising the Hall to the final num- 
ber of about twenty-five students." 

Basil Champneys, the architect of the new buildings at Merton, 
designed these additions in the then fashionable red brick. Contem- 
porary undergraduates referred to the final combination as "red, 
white, and blue "the blue being inside. A month after the second 
extension had been completed Mrs Arnold Toynbee, now a young 
widow, became Treasurer of the Hall, and so continued until her 
resignation in 1920. She is still remembered by the Toynbee Building, 
and by a sundial in the college garden her own presentation bear- 
ing the motto "Ornnes imputat horas caritas." 

That garden was then the chief 'amenity' of the Hall. In all the 
women's colleges cooking was long to remain at the cold-mutton- 
and-blancmange standard; baths were scarce, and Janet Courtney 
recalled that the beds not from HeaPs "were the hardest ever 
known." One student of 1887 remembered, in compensation, hear- 
ing nightingales sing in the trees of the Parks just beyond the college 

Throughout the eighteen-eighties Dr Talbot remained Chairman 
of the Hall; he kept this post until he became Bishop of Rochester in 
1895. In 1884 John Ruskin, who had been so much pleased with the 
"girlies" at Somerville, equally approved of its Anglican counter- 
part. He presented Lady Margaret Hall with a number of his own 
works, tastefully bound, and a set of Maria Edgeworth's Tales. 

Other activities had now been added to the "playing at ball" with 
which Somerville had entertained him. Lady Margaret Hall was the 
first women's college to own a boat on the Cherwell, and in 1891 
began to play hockey. This game was stopped for a time when the 
Somerville team, captained by muscular Lilian Faithfull, invariably 
had better results than its contemporary an outcome of inter- 
college matches seldom repeated to-day. Eventually the students from 
North Oxford resumed playing, though cricket was never allowed. 

The earliest names at Lady Margaret Hall include those of two 
travellers, Susette Taylor, a gifted linguist who was one of the few 
English women ever to travel in Tibet, and Ella Sykes, later Secre- 
tary of the Royal Asiatic Society, who with her brother. Sir Percy 
Sykes, wrote Through Deserts and Oases of Central Asia. Among 


their college contemporaries were Eleanor and Margaret Benson, 
daughters of the Archbishop. The elder did social work in Lambeth 
during her short life; the younger studied the philosophy of religion, 
founded the St Paul's Association for Biblical Study, and wrote The 
Venture of a 'Rational "Faith. 

The religious observances consistently maintained at Lady Mar- 
garet Hall fostered such vocations as these. Prayers in the chapel 
began and ended the day, and on Fridays and Sundays Miss Words- 
worth conducted a Bible class. In 1889 the more devout students were 
reading Lux Mundi, a compendium edited by Charles Gore, later 
Bishop of Oxford, which included several contributors from Keble. 
It typified religious thought in the eighties, and appealed to his- 
torians, scientists, and philosophers. 

Among the philosophers was Janet Hogarth, who took a First in 
"Greats," and married W. L. Courtney, the Editor of the Fort- 
nightly Review, a year after becoming head in 1910 of the indexing 
stall of the Encyclopedia Britannica. She published a number of 
pleasantly informative books on her Oxford contacts, such as Recol- 
lected in Tranquillity, An Oxford Portrait Gallery, and The Women 
of My Time. 

Since Janet Hogarth insisted on reading Philosophy while this 
subject was still a male monopoly, she had to petition for access to 
some of the men's lecture courses. 5 Jowett at Balliol agreed to co- 
operate, and she attended lectures on the pre-Socratics by Lewis 
Nettleship, Dean of the College. In the hall she sat at the High Table 
far from the audience of undergraduates, and was sometimes accom- 
panied by Miss Wordsworth, who audibly dissented from the 
lecturer. Long afterwards Janet Courtney recalled the Dean, dreamy 
and shy, walking down St Giles with his Aberdeen terrier behind 
him, "the dog so absurdly like his master." 

When the Nettleship lectures were over New College allowed her 
to hear Plato being expounded by W. L. Courtney, who interceded 
for her with other lecturers many years before he married her. No 
unofficial chaperon would volunteer for subjects as 'stiff' as this; 
she had to fall back on the elderly paid chaperon who at intervals 
let her ball of red knitting- wool roll on the floor, "to be picked up 
and restored to her with exaggerated politeness by a bored under- 

B According to a former Oxford tutor, men could refuse to have women at their 
lectures up to the First World War. 


To the same 'year' as Janet Hogarth belonged Gertrude Bell, the 
scholar, poet, historian, archaeologist, mountaineer, and explorer, 
who became the "Uncrowned Queen of Arabia," and helped to put 
the first King Feisal on his throne. At the age of fifteen she had 
attended Queen's College in Harley Street, where one of the lecturers 
urged her to go to Oxford and join the History School. 

Her Yorkshire father, Sir Hugh Bell, a wealthy iron-master, 
agreed to this dangerous experiment, and was abundantly justified; 
Gertrude, described by Janet Courtney as "the most brilliant student 
we ever had at Lady Margaret Hall," took a remarkable First in 
Modern History when still under twenty in spite of an unabashed 
disagreement at her viva voce with Professor S. K. Gardiner, the 
chief authority on the early Stuarts. 

"I am afraid," she told him, "I must differ from your estimate of 
Charles the First." 

Her contemporaries recalled her, untidy and auburn-haired, with 
green eyes and long, pointed nose, coming up at seventeen and 
"taking them by storm" with her youthful confidence and vivid 
conversation. She soon reorganized her dress, and was remembered 
during the week of the History Finals as appearing in a different 
garment each day. 

In spite of her scintillating qualities, Gertrude Bell was not the 
type of student to make the strongest appeal to Miss Wordsworth, 
whose high valuation of home duties put scholarship second. 

"Would she be the sort of person to have in one's bedroom when 
one was ill? " Miss Wordsworth once inquired. 

After Gertrude Bell and Janet Hogarth "parted in the First Class," 
as Gertrude put it, they kept up with each other for nearly forty years. 
Gertrude went on to a series of adventures which began with 
mountain-climbing in the Dolomites, where a "Pic Gertrude" is 
called by her name. Her life work found its direction when she 
visited her step-uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, then British Minister at 

She learned Persian, Arabic, and Turkish, could tell an Arab's 
district from his dialect, and in 1913, when she was forty-five, 
travelled southward through Arabia to Riyadh, where no European 
had ever been. From the biography of her (1958) by Elizabeth 
Burgoyne we learn that another journey, to Hayil, the following 
year was planned as an escape from a passionate association with a 
married man. 


After the First World War broke out she became Head, in 1915, of 
the London Office for Wounded and Missing. Then, because of her 
special knowledge, she was summoned to the Middle East, marched 
with the relieving force to Kut, became Assistant Political Officer in 
Baghdad, and later was appointed Oriental Secretary to Sir Percy 
Cox. In her most famous book, The Desert and the Sown, which 
David Hogarth called "the best travel book since Eothen" she sum- 
marized her life's experience: 

To those born under an elaborate social system, few such moments 

of exhilaration can come as that which stands at the threshold of wild 

travel. The gates of the enclosed garden are thrown open . . . and 

behold ! the immeasurable world. 

Gertrude Bell died in 1926, exhausted by the climate of Baghdad 
and the demands of public service; Janet Courtney survived her for 
over a quarter of a century. The general public recognized Gertrude's 
greatness only when The Times published a leading article on her 
death. After her Letters appeared in 1927 she became a legend, 
though the new kingdom which she had helped to build lasted barely 
forty years. 

Quietly hidden among these brilliant sunflowers was a modest but 
subsequently notorious violet, Eleanor Frances Jourdain, who went 
up to Oxford in 1883. She was destined to become the second Prin- 
cipal of St Hugh's College and to end her life in a storm of contro- 
versy. A photograph of her as a student shows an undistinguished 
young face with plump cheeks and round chin, though the eyes are 
keen beneath the light eyebrows and sandy hair. In Recollected in 
Tranquillity Janet Courtney describes Eleanor Jourdain as a "curious 
and baffling personality ... as far as I can judge a psychological 
egoist, absorbed in her own mental and emotional processes, and 
therefore liable to take distorted views in dealing with others." 

This book, published in 1926, appeared soon after the tempest 
which raged at St Hugh's College had filled columns of the Oxford 
and London newspapers. Whatever Miss Jourdain's shortcomings, 
Janet Courtney's verdict can hardly be accepted as strictly impartial. 

In 1886 the college with which Miss Jourdain was to be identified 
came into existence. 

Some years earlier Miss Wordsworth's father, the Bishop of 
Lincoln, had contributed to a guarantee fund for founding the 
bishopric of Southwell. After the bishopric had been established and 


put on a sound financial basis, the guarantee fund was returned to the 
Wordsworth family. Miss Wordsworth's share amounted to about 
600. With this she proposed to build a modest hostel, attached to 
Lady Margaret Hall, for students of limited means who would be 
expected to do most of their own domestic work. 

When her committee decided against this plan she took a small 
semi-detached house, 24 Norham Gardens, and founded a separate 
Hall with its owfct committee. She called it St Hugh's. 

"My reason for the choice of the name," she wrote long after- 
wards in the college Chronicle for 1928-29, 

was that St Hugh was at one time Bishop of Lincoln, and Oxford was 
then in the diocese of Lincoln. There is a head of the saint in St Giles's 
Church, Oxford, and his figure with his favourite swan is on the spire 
of St Mary's. I looked upon the Hall as a tribute to my father. 

St Hugh's began with four students; the next house was added the 
following year, and another in Norham Gardens purchased in 1888. 

"No academical society in the University has begun so humbly 
and developed so rapidly in numbers, status and finance," wrote 
Annie M. A. H. Rogers. But the original idea could not be main- 
tained; Miss Wordsworth herself came to realize that a college to 
help needy students should be rich, not poor. Eventually St Hugh's 
adopted the same style and fees as the other colleges. Sir John Caesar 
Hawkins became Chairman of its first Council in 1890; his successors 
were to include Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury. 

In her appreciation of Dame Elizabeth Wordsworth, contributed 
to The Times after Dame Elizabeth's death in 1932, Miss Barbara 
Gwyer, then Principal of St Hugh's, recorded how much it had 
pleased the founder of the Hall to see her creation grow into a col- 
legiate community. After forty-six years it was equal in membership 
to the senior colleges, occupied an important site in North Oxford, 
and needed only the adequate endowments which give to every place 
of education its main source of future security. 

Looking round in 1886 for a principal for her new Hall, Miss 
Wordsworth, whose brother was to succeed Bishop Moberly at Salis- 
bury, inevitably approached the late Bishop's unmarried daughter, 
Charlotte Anne Elizabeth, now just forty, who had taken care of 
her formidable father in his last illness. 

"The first heads of the women's colleges," wrote Edith Olivier in 
Four Victorian Ladies of Wiltshire, . 


had to be chosen from women whose minds were stored with the 
learning of the past, who had the business capacity to found colleges 
without any tradition behind them, and who possessed the statesman- 
like qualities enabling them to lead their sex into the age-old conserva- 
tive academic world. The first women's colleges could not find their 
heads in the ranks of those who had gained the School Certificate, for 
those ranks did not exist. They therefore looked among women who 
had grown up in the world of public service, the daughters and sisters 
of statesmen and bishops. Cambridge chose a daughter of Mr Glad- 
stone and a sister of Mr Arthur Balfour; among Oxford's first choices 
were the daughters of the Bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury. 

Edith Olivier's mother always declared that "Annie " Moberly 
was the original of the bluestocking Ethel in the enormous family 
of Dr May in Charlotte Yonge's novel The Daisy Chain. But families 
even of fifteen were not uncommon in the eighteen-forties; nor were 
severe fathers who terrified their wives and children. 

There was only one recorded instance, noted Edith Olivier, of Miss 
Moberly's mother calling her father by his Christian name. But in 
her own book about her family, Dulce Domum, published in 1911, 
Miss Moberly showed her deep affection for that inflexible, em- 
bittered father, to whom preferment had come very late in life. 

"No one who reads that book," writes Dr Joan Evans, one of 
St Hugh's most distinguished students, "will underestimate the 
faith in which she was brought up and found her strength." 

In the fifth (1956) edition of An Adventure, the controversial 
work compiled by Miss Moberly and her successor, Miss Jourdain, 
Joan Evans, who went up to St Hugh's in 1914 when Miss 
Moberly was still in command, has reproduced the 1889 portrait 
of her by W. Llewellyn which hangs in the college. Here is un- 
questionably Charlotte Anne Elizabeth, named after her godmother 
Charlotte Yonge; an impressive, blunt-nosed woman, with firm, full 
lips. The black hair plunges down the broad forehead in an attrac- 
tive widow's peak; the challenging eyes seem almost to burn through 
the pince-nez which emphasize rather than conceal them. 

Bishop Moberly, who was born in Russia, had believed himself to 
be the grandson of an illegitimate daughter of Peter the Great a 
legend which Miss Moberly may or may not have accepted, but never 
attempted to deny. Her strong, dark face, so free from the softening 
influence of feminine charm, appeared to give substance to the story. 

Very different are the two less familiar pictures published by 


Lucille Iremonger in The Ghosts of Versailles, a book which 
deflates Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain in the process of investi- 
gating their 1901 'Adventure/ These photographs definitely present 
Miss Moberly as "Annie." The earlier one reveals an insipid-looking 
girl, her sloping shoulders half concealed by the inevitable fur stole; 
the later shows a stoutish middle-aged woman with fading hair. 

In the first we see the Bishop's diffident unmarried daughter, with 
no status to maintain apart from the second-hand prestige of con- 
sanguinity; in the second, authority is suggested only by the tight 
mouth and firm chin. She almost appears as the "elderly governess" 
of Mr A. J. P. Taylor's review, but looks quite incapable of pro- 
ducing what he called an "inflated fantasy." Nothing could less 
faithfully suggest mystery or even imagination though Lucille Ire- 
monger credits her with it than that solid, sensible figure in a high- 
backed chair seated at a table. 

Nevertheless Miss Moberly, being the seventh daughter of a seventh 
daughter, believed herself to possess psychic qualities a conviction 
that was later to bring her considerable notoriety, with all its fatigu- 
ing and inescapable demands. In fact, for a plain, shy woman with 
irreproachable antecedents and a dignified academic position, she has 
commanded during the past fifty years a measure of publicity that 
might well turn any modern film-star purple with envy. 

Whether she put St Hugh's on the map is a matter on which 
opinions may differ; about the fact that she put herself on it there 
can be no argument at all. Apart from Margery Fry, who ranks as a 
world citizen rather than an Oxford woman, Miss Moberly was the 
only principal of an Oxford women's college whose name and 
experiences came to be popularly known far beyond the confines of 
city and university, largely eclipsing the similar claim to recognition 
of her successor, Miss Jourdain. 

But in 1886 her 'Adventure' lay far ahead; so did the books, essays, 
articles, and reviews that would be written about her. Probably no 
one at Oxford who saw her trying, not very competently, to balance 
the budget of her little college would have believed that these things 
could happen at all. 

Just before the arrival of Miss Wordsworth's letter asking her to 
take charge of St Hugh's, Annie Moberly thought that she had htard 
one of her 'voices.' It was autumn; her father was dead and her life 
empty; sitting under a chestnut-tree, with its nuts now brown 
and ripe, she wondered how she was going to fill it. Suddenly she 


seemed to feel a hand on her head and to hear a bright, clear voice 
saying, "Better than you think! " 

At the suburban villa in Norham Road, which made no preten- 
sions to be anything but an economical Oxford lodging, Miss 
Moberly must often have reflected wryly on the contrast between the 
dream and the business, and wondered whether her 'voice' had 
indeed been prophetic. 

The house had no architectural distinction to encourage a middle- 
aged woman, brought up in two lovely cathedral cities, who knew 
little of the world outside public schools and bishop's palaces. Nor 
did the handful of raw girls put into her charge suggest any inspiring 
capacity to develop into a college. Everything, noted her 'Barset- 
shire' friend Edith Olivier, had to be created, and she had not even 
received the normal 'higher' education of those days. She had only 
learnt from her exacting father the significance of loyalty, discipline, 
self-control, and common sense. 

It is recorded of her that, near the end of her life, she said of her 
appointment to St Hugh's, "There were tempestuously effective 
people on the Council and in the world, with whom I could not com- 
pete. I just went on." 

She "went on" indeed, for she stayed at St Hugh's for twenty- 
nine years, and lived to be ninety. 

Meanwhile, in the purlieus of St Giles, Somerville Hall was going 
vigorously ahead with both the dream and the business, though it 
lost one of its most valued friends in 1882. 

That year a scarlet-fever epidemic broke out in Oxford and 
claimed, as its most distinguished victim, Professor T. H. Green. His 
wife took his place and served Somerville as a member of its Council 
from 1884 until her death in 1929. Her friendship with Benjamin 
Jowett, who became Vice-Chancellor in the year that her husband 
died, established a traditional link between Somerville and Balliol. 
In Dr Jowett's final illness she was his constant companion; Janet 
Courtney records that the last letter he wrote with his own hand, in 
September 1893, was addressed to Mrs Green. 

From the outset Somerville had a definite idea of the direction in 
which it wanted to move. Its various authorities always paid keen 
attention to constitutional questions, perceiving that here lay the 
crux of the relationship between the Hall and the university. The 
Somerville section of die Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, 


volume iii, gives far more space to constitutional changes than any of 
the other women's colleges. 

The original constitution of Somerville, like the constitutions of 
the others, sprang from a nineteenth-century expedient, the joint- 
stock limited-liability company. Two years after the Hall opened 
its founders formed themselves into a non-profit-making organiza- 
tion of this type. Ordinary members, honorary members, and life 
members, paying subscriptions at different rates, elected a Council 
to manage the company's business and present an annual report. 

No rich benefactors helped the early struggles of the women's col- 
leges, though a few appeared after higher education for women 
had become a going concern. A subscribing membership was a neces- 
sary method of financing a new foundation dependent on the benevo- 
lence of enthusiasts with limited professional incomes, but it had its 
disadvantages once the institution became self-supporting. By that 
time the foundation members had usually disappeared, and the early 
enthusiasms had passed into history. 

All the women's societies adopted, from time to time, a variety of 
expedients for raising funds needed by building and endowments 
which are never demanded, as part of their normal activities, from 
the men's colleges at the older universities. Somerville, for example, 
was to throw open its membership to all past students owning certi- 
ficates issued by the Council at 5^. a year, since die probable need for 
continued extension was already clear when a new wing, designed by 
T. Graham Jackson, was added to the original manor-house in 
1881. In 1886-87 ^ West Building arose to eclipse the buttercup 
field, and actually contained one or two bathrooms. 

The future of the college still depended on the policy of an elected 
Council a fact not foreseen when the constitution was drawn up. 
Gradually the Principal and tutors, in constant touch with both the 
university and their own past students, became increasingly respon- 
sible for directing the work of the students still at college. 

For the first year or two Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall had 
shared non-resident tutors under the A.E.W. The most outstanding 
of these was Annie Rogers, who from 1881 had been Senior Tutor in 
Classics. But Somerville appointed a resident History Tutor, Miss L. 
Haigh, as early as 1882, and Miss Seward followed her as Natural 
Science Tutor in 1885. Miss Eleanor Powell succeeded Miss Haigh 
from 1886 to 1892, and Clara Pater became Vice-Principal in 1886 
and Classics Tutor from 1887 to 1894. 


In the second decade of their existence this development was to 
cause an inevitable though strongly resisted breach between the two 
first colleges and the Association for the Education of Women. 

The first Somerville students, like their successors, differed to a 
marked degree from the daughters of clerical homes at Lady Mar- 
garet Hall. Being unrestricted by a denominational foundation, they 
belonged to no special creed, class, race, or social section, and brought 
to Oxford a variety rather than a type. According to their diverse 
tastes they ran historical and literary societies, clubs for reading 
Shakespeare or Browning, discussion groups for thrashing out philo- 
sophical problems, and highly selected circles in which the members 
read their own essays aloud to each other, and appeared enormously 
wise and intimidating to young first-year students. 

In 1882 Julia Frances Arnold later the mother of Julian and 
Aldous Huxley, who in 1880 had moved to Somerville from the Home 
Students took a First in English, and thus foreshadowed the pre- 
occupations of her younger son. She was a very early exponent of 
marriage plus career, for in addition to having a husband and four 
children she acted as Headmistress of Prior's Field School, Godal- 
ming, which she had founded, until her death at the age of forty-six 
in 1908. 

Two of her contemporaries became travellers with heroic records. 
Edith Coombs, in charge of a girls' school at Tai Yuan Fu, Shensi, 
China, died in rescuing some of her pupils from a burning building 
during the Boxer Rising of 1900. Emily Kemp studied both medicine 
and art after going down from Oxford, and eventually found her 
metier in wanderings for many years through China and Chinese 
Turkistan. A deeply religious woman who, after several volumes of 
travel, produced in 1932 a book entitled Mary with Her Son Jesus, 
she bequeathed to non-sectarian Somerville a large sum for building 
a chapel, which stirred up a brief but acute controversy in the later 

Three outstanding Somerville students of that first decade were 
between them to make a remarkable contribution to the progress of 

Lilian Mary Faithfull, a Somerville exhibitioner of 1883 whose 
father was clerk of the Merchant Taylors Company, succeeded 
Dorothea Beale as Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College from 
1907 to 1922. Still a stalwart hockey-player and the first President of 
the All England Women's Hockey Association, Miss Faithfull made 


Cheltenham a formidable opponent for every other school team of 
comparable quality. 

As Headmistress she remained constant to old educational 
methods, and had not much use for such modern deviations as 
co-education and the Dalton System. For thirty years after her retire- 
ment she was an active social worker and magistrate, who founded 
the Old People's Housing Society at Cheltenham, and died in one 
of their homes, Faithfull House, at the age of eighty-seven. 

In 1889 a pioneer Indian, Cornelia Sorabji, appeared at Somer- 
ville. Notwithstanding her lifelong opposition to Indian nationalism, 
she was in many ways a woman of remarkable vision. Under the 
influence of an enlightened mother converted from Hinduism to 
Christianity, Cornelia had dedicated herself before the age of nine to 
the cause of Indian women kept in purdah. 

Three years after coming up to Oxford she obtained a special 
decree from Congregation to allow her to sit, the first woman, for 
the B.C.L. 6 examination. Though English was not her native lan- 
guage, she obtained Third-class Honours and became a barrister-at- 
law. Shortly afterwards she established herself as legal adviser to the 
"purdahnaschins" under the Courts of Wards in Bengal, Bihar, 
Orissa, and Assam, and became Consulting Counsel to the Govern- 
ment of Bengal. By the time that she retired, six hundred Indian 
wives, widows, orphans, and minor heirs had received advice from 
her, often without charge. 

Although Cornelia had studied in chambers at Lincoln's Inn in the 
eighteen-eighties, the Inn did not call her to the Bar until, thirty 
years after she became a Somervillian, the Sex Disqualification 
(Removal) Act of 1919 lifted the sex barrier to the legal profession. 
During this period and long afterwards she wrote nine books and 
innumerable short stories and articles for magazines in Britain and 
the United States. In 1943 she undertook, in her middle seventies, to 
edit Queen Mary's Boo\ for India in aid of the Indian Comforts 

When she died in 1954 at the age of eighty-eight Cornelia Sorabji 
had seen almost the whole development of two great and successful 
struggles for freedom the virtual achievement by women of equal 
citizenship and the liberation of her own country after its long fight 
for independence. With the second, being strongly pro-British, she 
had never been in sympathy, and her long life ended too soon for her 
6 Bachelor of Civil Law, 


to see in perspective the international achievements of modern India. 
Like Mrs Humphry Ward, she chose the wrong direction at an 
important moment in history, and was repudiated by the currents of 
her time with a completeness which tends to withhold from her the 
status that is her due. 

"Cornelia Sorabji had no peer among the women of India," ran a 
Manchester Guardian article at the time of her death. "In Calcutta, 
and afterwards for half a lifetime in London, she was an arresting 
figure with a superb profile, always perfectly dressed in the richly 
coloured silk sari to which the modern Parsee woman has remained 

In the same year as Cornelia Sorabji an even more mature student 
came up to Somerville at the age of thirty-one. Emily Penrose, gaunt, 
austere, and single-minded even in early womanhood, was the daugh- 
ter of Francis Cranmer Penrose. Her father, collaterally descended 
from Archbishop Cranmer, was the son of "Mrs Markham," author 
of A Chiles History of England, well known to an older generation. 

At the time of his daughter's arrival in Oxford to read Classics 
with less than a smattering of Latin and ancient Greek, Dr Penrose, 
a well-known archaeologist, was Director of the British School at 
Athens. As the intermediary examinations necessary for a Classical 
degree were then not open to women, Emily Penrose prepared for 
the Final School unimpeded by preliminaries, and in 1892 became 
the first woman to win a First in " Greats." 

It is perhaps significant that these three near-contemporaries all 
became octogenarians, the third dying in 1942 at the age of eighty- 
four. A distinguished public career brings its own matchless stimulus, 
and the three women one from a background far removed from 
Oxford had each the vitality which demands a life lived to the full. 

Eventually Emily Penrose was to give Somerville its third prin- 
cipal, and to do more than any woman except Annie Rogers to win 
the battle for the degree. 7 But in 1889 that future summons was 
unforeseen by anyone apart, perhaps, from Miss Penrose herself. 
During the same year Miss Shaw Lefevre gave place to Miss Agnes 
Maitland, who was to dominate Somerville College during the next 

7 See Chapters 6 and 7. 

Chapter j: Infiltration 


of Somerville at the end of 1889 a subtle change entered into the 
history of women at Oxford, easier to recognize in perspective than 
it could possibly have been at the time. 

Published memories of Miss Maitland and the record of her 
achievements suggest that she was a hospital matron manquee*, or 
perhaps it would be truer to say that, while she made an excellent 
college principal by the standards of her own day, she would have 
been an efficient hospital matron by the standards of any day. The 
capable administrator had arrived to take the place of the elegant 
embodiment of decorous society; the lady was already giving way to 
the woman. 

The fact that this change occurred at Somerville was partly due 
to accident and partly to the characters of the three existing colleges. 
The accident lay in Miss Wordsworth's thirty years of domination at 
Lady Margaret Hall and in her long life. 

No one seems to have wished, during her principalship, that she 
would resign; the chorus of appreciation which broke out at her 
death has a genuine and unanimous sound, quite different from the 
perfunctory politeness of the usual obituary notice. Her genius may 
have had Victorian roots, but it was genius none the less; and 
genius is rare. So rare is it that Miss Wordsworth's spirit continued to 
set the tone of her college long after she had retired. She lived on, 
still setting it, beyond the retirement of the next principal, Henrietta 

And at St Hugh's, her creation, was Miss Moberly, her choice 
also destined to be a nonagenarian and to influence her college, 
unseen, after her successor had died. Nobody would have called Miss 
Moberly elegant, but in other respects she and Miss Wordsworth 
came out of the same specialized drawer. They were both bishops' 
daughters, impeccably springing from the 'right* people. 

At Somerville, deliberately, a different tradition had been fostered. 


The college was. equally free from episcopal influence, social ex- 
clusiveness, and Victorian values. Miss Shaw Lefevre, though she 
stayed on its Council, did not remain in Oxford as an invisible but 
pervasive presence. Somerville was at liberty to let the new influences 
which would corne with a new century illuminate its path. 

When Miss Maitland arrived she was thirty-nine and a convinced 
Liberal. Although she had been privately educated in the comfort- 
able home of her father, David John Maitland of Liverpool, she 
appears always to have worked, first as Secretary to the Egypt Explora- 
tion Fund and then for the Liverpool Women's Liberal Association. 
For fifteen years she had been examiner to the National Union of 
Schools of Domestic Economy and an inspector of classes on this 
subject in Liverpool elementary schools. 

Her books, like her personal history, were domestic rather than 
scholarly. They bore such tides as Elsie, a Woman's Victory, Cottage 
Lectures', Rudiments of Cookery, and the Afternoon Tea Boo^. She 
had also written papers on hygiene and household economics. 

In her portrait at Somerville College Miss Maitland appears serene, 
amiable, even a little complacent. She is shown in a black dress with 
high, lace-edged neck and white jabot; her white hair, smooth and 
exquisite, is dressed high; dark eyes beneath well-marked eyebrows 
look down upon her pale hands folded on a maroon-coloured book. 
This picture suggests utter tranquillity and a deep satisfaction with 
her surroundings. It makes a remarkable contrast with its near neigh- 
bour, Roger Fry's portrait of his sister Margery the lively dedicated 
seeker, for ever looking out with vigilant, far-seeing eyes on a world 
in need of perpetual change. 

In fairness to the artist, James Gunn, whose fine paintings of 
Eleanor Rathbone and Mildred Pope hang in the same dining-hall, it 
should be recorded that Miss Maitland' s picture had to be painted 
long after her death from a photograph a quarter of a century old. 

Unlike the painter of the portrait, Dr Woods, Master of the 
Temple and Councillor of Somerville from 1885 to 1915, had direct 
contact with her, and put on record how far, at her first interview 
before the Council, Miss Maitland stood out above the other candi- 
dates for Miss Shaw Lefevre's post. 

Affectionately and appropriately she was known to her students as 
"the Warden." Resembling a glorified bursar rather than a college 
principal by modern standards, she had progressive ideas about 
women's education, and recognized the quality of such students as 


Eleanor Rathbone. She knew when to be blind and deaf, and was also 
tactfully insensitive to the revolutionary smell of Eleanor's perpetual 

As a personality Miss Maitland typified the period of transition 
which covered the progress of the college from its Victorian begin- 
ning to the modern institution preparing to take its place in the 
university after the First World War. An unashamed optimist, she 
believed that for Somerville anything was possible; she identified 
herself with the ambitions of her students, and never doubted that 
the struggle for the degree would some day be won. 

By 1895 the college had sixty-two students; its numbers grew 
steadily owing to the increasingly liberal attitude of the university 
and the new opportunities given to women at Oxford. A further 
attraction was Somerville's own change of name from 'Hall' to 
'College' in 1894. This claim enhanced its status in the eyes of the 
public, and gave notice that the Governing Body intended to raise 
their foundation above the level of a mere hall of residence. 

From the start Somerville had been half consciously modelling 
itself on the colleges of the university, and getting away from the 
combined hostel and boarding-school first visualized by the founders. 
Not least important in that development was the appointment of 
tutors and the extension of the tutorial system to a point never 
visualized by the A.E.W. 

Even before Miss Maitland took up her post this attitude was well 
established. Just before retiring from the principalship Miss Shaw 
Lefevre wrote to her successor about the college's arrangements for 
private tuition : 

I always tried to keep these as much as possible in my own hands. 

I certainly think that the students should look to their Hall for 

guidance and that the Association should be regarded as an august and 

independent body not lightly to be applied to. 

This discreet and dignified method of propelling the A.E.W. 
upstairs found an immediate response in Miss Maitland. Within four 
years of her arrival she had engineered the first step in the tranf orma- 
tion of a dependent hostel into an independent college. 

An early A.E.W. Report had stated: "The Association is the teach- 
ing body for all the women students alike, whether members of the 
Halls or ... Home Students, and ... its tutorial and lecturing staff is 
the same for all." 


As the two senior foundations, and later St Hugh's, developed 
their own tutorial systems this claim became increasingly difficult to 
sustain. By 1892 the numbers at Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville 
together had risen to about a hundred, which, in addition to the 
Home Students, made too large a body for their individual super- 
vision by the A.E.W. Women tutors were beginning to take over the 
direction of students whom the A.E.W. had once sent to distin- 
guished men a practice in any case doomed, except for the few most 
promising, by the rapidly increasing numbers of male under- 

In Somerville's first rules the Council had made only one reference 
to tuition; they stated that they would "undertake to arrange for the 
instruction in Holy Scripture of those students who desire it, and 
also for private tuition in other subjects, should this be found neces- 
sary in addition to the instruction furnished by the Association/' 

When the A.E.W. tried to re-state this relationship in 1893 Somer- 
ville flatly denied that it still existed, and Lady Margaret Hall took 
up the same attitude. 

To-day the tension created by that internal controversy seems an 
insignificant storm in a very small teacup, but it was a necessary part 
of the growth of Oxford women from adolescence to adulthood. 

The early ideals of the A.E.W. had developed round the concep- 
tion of one college or hall with everything centralized; relations with 
lecturers and tutors, and contacts with the university, were to be 
exclusive A.E.W. privileges. At the centre of the organization, where 
Mrs Johnson reigned as Secretary, the transfer of loyalties to the 
halls themselves was difficult to realize, and she resisted it with all 
her strength. The struggle centred round her personality ^tradition- 
loving, conservative, unable or perhaps unwilling to see the necessity 
for change, yet ardently devoted to the A.E.W. and the ideals from 
which it sprang. 

When, inevitably, she lost the battle and resigned her position, 
Dr Archibald Spooner, the future Warden of New College, wrote to 

I suppose all new movements will work themselves out in ways we 
had not expected and cannot always approve, and i this movement 
is going along a path you do not think the best, there seems no 
sufficient reason why you should help it in that direction. 

Mrs Johnson's successor as Secretary was appropriately Annie 
M. A. H. Rogers, a born collegian, who immediately began to carry 


the A.E.W. in the opposite direction and to modify its ascendancy 
over the colleges. A stage in the history of women's education at 
Oxford had concluded; the halls had won the right to control them- 
selves, and the A.E.W. became a declining influence until its end in 

Unimpeded by its claims, Miss Maitland immediately consolidated 
her victory, and began to look for college tutors to take over as much 
as possible of the Honours teaching. By 1900 she had collected a bril- 
liant team. 

The first of the appointments in the eighteen-nineties was that of 
Mildred Katharine Pope, a Somerville exhibitioner of 1891 with a 
First Class in Modern Languages, then still a 'women's examina- 
tion.' From the time that she became Librarian in 1893 and Tutor in 
Modern Languages the following year, Miss Pope never left Somer- 
ville until she went to Manchester University as Professor of French 
Language and Romance Philology from 1935 to 1939. She was born 
in 1872, the same year as Eleanor Rathbone, whom she survived by 
ten years. A member of a large family in a nineteenth-century 
country parsonage, she came into her own when the Faculty of 
Modern Languages was established by the university in 1906. 

Her portrait by James Gunn, painted in 1934, shows a plain, 
humorous face with intent spectacled eyes beneath severely dressed 
hair. She had, it suggests, the least interest in her appearance of all 
those who hang on Somerville' s walls. It is doubtful whether even a 
modern beauty specialist could have triumphed over that kindly, 
ironic countenance, indifferent in its concentrated intelligence to 
vanity, frivolity, and all secondary preoccupations. (These did not for 
her include hockey, at which she was expert.) 

Like Margery Fry and Eleanor Rathbone, Miss Pope dedicated her 
single-track mind to her own large ends although, unlike Eleanor 
Rathbone, she was capable of "irrelevant enjoyment" The purposes 
of all three contemporaries were wholly worth while, and totally 

In the year that Mildred Pope took over Somerville's Modern Lan- 
guages, Alice Moore Bruce, daughter of the first Lord Aberdare, 
was appointed the college Secretary. Shy and scholarly, with a Second 
in Modern History, Miss Bruce became Vice-Principal after four 
years, and remained in that position until 1929. Her contemporary 
Jane Willis Kirkaldy, a Somervillian with a First in Zoology (then 
called Animal Morphology), also became a tutor in 1893, but was 


directly responsible to the A.E.W. since there were not then enough 
science students to justify a resident tutor at any college. 

Two years after Miss Bruce's appointment Beatrice Adelaide Lees, 
a Scholar with a First in Modern History, came from Lady Margaret 
Hall to be History Tutor both for Somerville and for the A.E.W. 
She became a specialist in mediaeval history and wrote The Central 
Period of the Middle Age. 

In 1896, writes Mary D. Stocks in her biography of Eleanor Rath- 
bone, "young Miss Lorimer arrived from Girton with an exuberance 
which she retained till the end." One of the most brilliantly eccentric 
of women dons, Hilda Lockhart Lorimer combined a tough Scottish 
exterior, a ruthless mind, and a witty, sharp-edged tongue with a 
deeply compassionate heart. Officially Classical Tutor, she was both 
an erudite student of Homeric archaeology and a learned ornitholo- 
gist, whose solitary Saturday cycling expeditions with binoculars to 
the remoter fastnesses of Oxfordshire became a college legend in her 
picturesque and dauntless prime. 

Miss Lorimer continued to live in Oxford after her retirement in 
1936 until her death in 1954. For nearly sixty years the university 
knew, as part of its background, the indomitable little figure with 
frosty blue eyes, russet-apple cheeks, and golden hair which kept its 
colour almost to the end of her long life. Even the determined harsh- 
ness of her Scottish accent added to the consistent impression of 
invincibility that she gave. This quality revealed itself in the faith 
which postponed the publication of her life-work, Homer and the 
Monuments., to the age of seventy-seven in spite of the challenge of 
serious illness. 

In 1897 Phoebe Sheavyn became English Tutor, and remained 
for ten years. Finally, at the end of the century, Sara Margery Fry, a 
student of 1894, joined the staff as Librarian. She had studied Mathe- 
matics, but her parents had not permitted her to take an examination. 
In spite of this Victorian prohibition, she eventually found her place 
in the succession of Somerville principals. 1 

Armed with her distinguished company of tutors, Miss Maidand 
next gave her attention to providing space for more students. The 
year 1892 saw the construction of the Woodstock Road Gatehouse 
and Porter's Lodge, and in 1895 a north-east extension balanced the 

1 A similar galaxy "was to appear in the next decade at Lady Margaret Hall, which 
from 1896 had as its History Tutor the gifted Eleanor Constance Lodge, author of 
The End of the Middle Ages and Gascony under English Rule. 


Jackson Wing of 1881. By 1900 the oil-lamps had been replaced by 
electric light, and seventy-six students could be accommodated. But 
Somerville had still no distinguished building of the kind that gives 
character to a college, and with the original entrance to Walton 
Manor House had gone the wistaria which gave it beauty. 

Realistically aware of the college's external defects, Miss Maitland 
visualized a new edifice which would worthily house the 6000 
books possessed by Somerville in 1898. She began to raise funds for 
the purpose, and lived just long enough to see the fine Library, join- 
ing Somerville's east and west buildings, completed and opened in 
1904. After a long illness, lasting through 1905, she died in August 

At this date Somerville had eighty-four students. Among them 
was already a research student, Evelyn Mary Jamison, of Lady 
Margaret Hall, who had arrived in 1903 as the first beneficiary of 
the Mary Somerville Research Fellowship, which Miss Maitland had 
helped to found in 1902. 

Symbolic of the progress which she initiated was the university's 
welcome abolition, in 1893, of chaperonage for women students at 
lectures. This custom, in deference to sentiments at the men's col- 
leges, had been retained long after all vestige of its necessity had 
disappeared. Somerville's former History Tutor, Eleanor Powell, 
chronicled its departure in words which every woman in the college 
must have endorsed with heartfelt relief: 

The year has not been without its distinctive features. It will be for 
ever remarkable for the systematic and total abolition of that relic of a 

rapidly dying and effete civilization, the chaperon at lectures, and with 

the chaperon goes into oblivion for ever the well-known yet un- 

lamented white cotton knitting. 

This revolutionary experiment by the university did not mean 
that the chaperon system had disappeared altogether; it was still 
thought necessary at social functions for many more years. Even the 
students who wanted to listen to the Latin hymn sung each year 
from the top of Magdalen Tower at dawn on May i had to bring a 
chaperon if they could persuade a lady of adequate respectability to 
get up at 4 A.M. 

c< It is curious," wrote Eleanor Lodge in 1922, "to look back now 
and see how necessary the chaperon was. In 1890 girls had hardly 
begun to walk about Oxford alone . . . and Oxford was particularly 


ready to remark on any advanced behaviour on the part of a woman 

Miss Lodge, born in 1869, was ^ on ty sister of Sir Oliver and Sir 
Richard Lodge and the youngest member of her large family, which 
came from Hanley, in North Staffordshire. She went up to Lady 
Margaret Hall in 1890 and became a pupil of Dr A. L. Smith, who as 
Master of Balliol was still coaching one or two women students in 
History and Political Science after the First World War. When she 
took the Final Honours School of Modern History in 1894 she 
obtained a Second, to her own disgust, but she joined the Senior 
Common Room of her college as Librarian in 1895, and became its 
Vice-Principal in 1906. 

In the eigh teen-nineties librarian ship at Lady Margaret Hall was 
a relatively light occupation, as the college had little money to spend 
on books and the students read mainly in the Radcliffe Camera. 
Eleanor Lodge filled her time by becoming unofficial adviser to every 
one reading History until her actual appointment as tutor. A 
specialist in Gascon history and a lover of France, she remained at 
Lady Margaret Hall for twenty-six years, leaving only to become 
Principal of Westfield College, London, in 1921. 

One of her fellow-students, who went up to Lady Margaret Hall 
the following year, was Christine Mary Elizabeth Burrows, destined 
to become the Principal of St Hilda's Hall in 1910 and of the Home 
Students from 1921 to 1929. Another, Barbara Bradby, a remark- 
able student with vivid red hair, subsequently married J. L. Ham- 
mond and with him produced the great joint series of economic and 
social studies that won an Oxford D.Litt. for them both. 

At college Barbara Bradby obtained a First in both "Mods.** and 
"Greats," and also distinguished herself by becoming hockey cap- 
tain, tennis champion, head of the Boating Club, and the first student 
to bring a bicycle to the Hall. In spite of her academic achievements 
and subsequent publications, she found when she wanted to take a 
degree in 1920 that she did not qualify owing to the omission of 
"Divvers" (now abolished), which had not been open to women 
when she was a student. 

When these three contemporaries went up, the Hall had between 
forty and fifty students. No hockey was played until 1891, and the 
only alternative to tennis was croquet a pastime which must have 
been somewhat frustrating to Miss Lodge, who was tall, well built, 
and athletic. 


As soon as cycling began it was hedged round with restrictions; 
bicycles were forbidden on Sundays, and must not be ridden over 
Magdalen and Folly Bridges. Finally Miss Wordsworth took up 
cycling herself, and the prohibitions went with the wind. 

As there were then few parties and no dancing, Eleanor Lodge 
used up her surplus energy on the still fashionable long rambles. 
These gave the students a knowledge of the country round Oxford, 
no longer so attractive to walkers to-day owing to the miles swal- 
lowed up by the ever-extending suburbs. 

On Sundays Miss Lodge initiated prolonged expeditions, now- 
adays known as 'hikes,' with sandwiches to make possible a whole 
day in the open air. The ramblers had to attend morning service at 
some village church owing to Miss Wordsworth's dictum that the 
day must not be one of "unmixed pleasure." 

An alternative amusement was drama, limited at Lady Margaret 
Hall to Miss Wordsworth's Christmas plays and (in common with 
the other colleges) the Going-down Play written and produced by 
third-year students after schools. These burlesques often disclosed 
much theatrical talent; one such play, performed at Somerville just 
after the First World War, was entitled The Bolsheviks of Baghdad 
and successfully 'guyed* all the leading women dons in Oxford. But 
even the best performances of this type had an adolescent quality 
which inevitably caused them to die when women became members 
of the university, and joined such famous amateur theatrical com- 
panies as O.U.D.S. and the Oxford University Players. 

In Miss Lodge's time women still qualified for entrance to Oxford 
by an obsolete examination known as the "Women's First" 
(abolished by the university in 1899), in which most candidates took 
French and German instead of the Latin and Greek demanded by 
Responsions. The handful of women students tended to be older, 
yet perhaps more varied, than their present-day successors, for * going 
to college* was still a daring experiment which distinguished a girl, 
not always in a flattering fashion, from her contemporaries. 

Its eccentricity was especially challenging to girls who came 
from private schools or had lived at home. Yet life in Oxford still 
seemed new, unique, and exhilarating, in spite of the constant 
financial struggle and the cold bleakness of libraries and common- 

Though the students did their own washing up and lit their indi- 
vidual coal-fires rare forms of self-help at that period of amply 


staffed middle-class households more work was probably accom- 
plished then than by women in modern Oxford. But they lived, inevi- 
tably, a self-centred life with few distractions, in which their own 
hopes and aspirations created their world. They usually stayed longer 
at Oxford than their successors, who are tied to the regulation period 
by the long waiting-lists at all the women's colleges. One contem- 
porary of Eleanor Lodge spent seven years on her Final Schools, and 
five for "Mods." and "Greats" combined was not uncommon. 

By the eighteen-nineties most university lectures were open to 
women, but Magdalen still held out against them, and Balliol ex- 
pected them to slip in unobtrusively by a back entrance. After the 
death of Benjamin Jowett his successor, Dr Edward Caird, started 
breakfast parties for students o both sexes at which his wife pre- 
sided. Invitations to these formal meals were equally coveted and 
feared. In those days, and for some years afterwards, breakfast at 
many of the colleges was an all-too-sociable occasion at which selected 
undergraduates, both men and women, were expected to entertain 
their tutors with bright conversation at the High Table. Only in 
relatively modern times did the dons have the courage to admit that 
they found this form of 'fellowship' as trying as the students. 

Many lectures were still given in the A.E.W.'s two small rooms in 
Alfred Street, where Miss Lodge found Mr (later Sir) John Mar- 
riott's visits "most exciting," until University Extension claimed 
him. Eventually the A.E.W. moved to the top of the Clarendon 
Building, where Annie Rogers had her office. This was 'Progress/ 
since the building belonged to the university, and the Registrar him- 
self functioned on a lower, more convenient, floor. 

In her book Terms and Vacations^ edited after her death by her 
friend Janet Spens, Eleanor Lodge even described this move as "the 
first step towards recognition." But the attic-and-basement phase of 
Progress was destined to continue for many years more. 

During this same decade the two nineteenth-century women 
students best known to the world outside Oxford missed each other 
by one vacation. Eleanor Rathbone went down from Somerville in 
the same year, 1896, that Agnes Maude Royden came up to Lady 
Margaret Hall. Both obtained Second-class Honours. 

Nobody knows, writes Eleanor Rathbone' s biographer, Mary D. 
Stocks, quite when or why she decided to go to Oxford, for she was 
"profound rather than clever, wholly without personal ambition, and 


comfortably provided for." Her Liverpool father, William Rathbone 
the Sixth, a Liberal Unitarian, probably encouraged her owing to a 
traditional family respect for higher education; he helped to establish 
a university college in his native city. As a student Miss Lodge 
stayed with the Rathbones and wrote in Terms and Vacations of her 
namesake: "I came to admire and love their daughter Eleanor, at 
that time a very beautiful, rather dreamy girl." 

After a hard struggle to get through Responsions, for which her 
unorthodox education had not prepared her, Eleanor Rathbone went 
up to Somerville and embarked on the "formidable mental disci- 
pline" of the Oxford "Greats" School. Neither games, dress, gossip, 
nor men attracted her, and she remained oblivious to rules, meal- 
times, and material surroundings. Her cigarettes, scandalous in 1893, 
were her only form of self-indulgence. 

As the young vivacious Miss Lorimer was then still a student at 
Girton, Eleanor Rathbone had to look for tutors outside her college. 
She studied Roman History with Professor Pelham, of Trinity, 
Moral Philosophy with Dr Caird, of Balliol, Greek History with Dr 
Reginald Macan, afterwards Master of University College, and Logic 
with Charles Cannan, of Corpus Christi. Their combined reports, 
received before Eleanor took Schools, credited her with "a magni- 
ficent speculative brain and a defective background of textual 

She shared some of her tutorials with Barbara Bradby, of Lady 
Margaret Hall, who remained a lifelong friend. Fellow-students at 
Somerville included Margery Fry; Lettice Ilbert (later Mrs H. A. L. 
Fisher); Rose Graham, historian and archaeologist; and Ethel Maude 
Samson (afterwards Mrs White), a future stalwart of feminism and 
Socialism who upheld both causes in vigorous speeches throughout 
a long life. To the next Oxford generation, which coincided with 
Maude Royden's, belonged Madeleine Scott, the daughter of C. P. 
Scott, of the Manchester Guardian, and Eleanor Margaret Cropper, 
who married Sir Francis Acland in 1905 and became the mother of 
Sir Richard Acland. 

Eleanor Rathbone was well adapted to this society of earnest, 
austere young women, which represented, alarmingly writes her 
biographer, "a small circle of first-rate minds distilled from a student 
body which, in those far-off days of pioneer female education, was 
itself a distillation of young women emanating from abnormally 
enlightened homes and impelled by abnormally serious purpose." 


Women at Oxford > adds Mrs Stocks, form a much larger and less 
earnest group to-day. But in relation, she comments, to the whole 
community they still represent some of the finest minds from the 
most socially conscious and thoughtful homes, and thus typify at its 
best "the purpose of women's whole struggle for freedom/' 

By the time that she reached her Finals, Eleanor's always illegible 
handwriting had so far deteriorated that before the examiners would 
read her papers she had to return to Oxford and dictate the whole 
series to a typist. And the result was only a Second, which Charles 
Cannan described as " ridiculous. " 

Eleanor Rathbone's fate in Schools, like that of Eleanor Lodge and 
Maude Royden, leaves open to question the value and significance 
of an Oxford Seconda class still obtained by such a large student 
category with differing abilities that it cries aloud to be subdivided. 

There are four types of student for whom a Second is the usual 
fate. First comes the conscientious plodder, who regards it as a bril- 
liant and satisfying achievement; secondly, the student, like Eleanor 
Rathbone, who is profound rather than scholarly; thirdly, the bad 
examinee with a first-rate mind; and finally, the student (a much 
more recent phenomenon among women than among men) who 
could get a First by working for it, but prefers to give the time to 
university journalism, drama, or politics. 

There is nothing in common between these categories, apart from 
the bitter disappointment that a Second brings to classes two and 

The loss of a First does not matter much to a preacher like Maude 
Royden, or a writer like Winifred Holtby, who only just missed it 
after a long viva voce, or a politician like Eleanor Rathbone. If the 
politician belongs to the Labour Party, with its anti-intellectual Trade 
Unionists, a First could be a handicap. But in academic life the dif- 
ference between a First and a Second is decisive. In the nineteen- 
twenties, when the Oxford women's colleges were choosing as prin- 
cipals the most distinguished scholars they could find, Eleanor 
Lodge's Second may well have prevented her from becoming Prin- 
cipal of Lady Margaret Hall. 

She had been there as History Tutor for twelve months when 
twenty-year-old Maude Royden, another product of Liverpool and 
a pupil from Cheltenham Ladies' College, came up in 1896 to find 
the new Wordsworth Building just completed. Eleanor Rathbone, if 
her strong moral bias had developed from an Anglican rather than 


a Unitarian background, might have been equally happy at Lady 
Margaret Hall, but Maude Royden, with her deeply rooted religious 
fervour, could never have been produced by Somerville, even though 
her chief enthusiasm as a student was not for devotional observance, 
but for amateur theatricals. 

Among her immediate predecessors at college was Ida O'Malley, 
who edited The Common Cause before her, and wrote Women in 
Subjection and a readable life of Florence Nightingale. Winifred H. 
Moberly, a future Principal of St Hilda's, was then in her third year. 
Close to Maude Royden in time and, probably, in spirit was Kathleen 
Courtney, two years her junior, who came up to Lady Margaret Hall 
in 1897, and eventually survived her. 

After becoming Honorary Secretary of the National Union of 
Women Suffrage Societies on going down from Oxford, Kathleen 
Courtney subsequently identified herself, as a middle-aged woman, 
with the League of Nations Union. Later in life she was Joint Presi- 
dent of the United Nations Association, and became Dame Kathleen 
in 1952. 

Evelyn Mary Jamison followed her at Lady Margaret Hall in 1898. 
She took a First in Modern History in 1901; six years later she 
returned to her college to become a member of the Senior Common 
Room till 1937, and Vice-Principal for many years. One of the most 
beautiful of women dons, she had a strong-featured face and raven- 
black hair, which showed a becoming white streak long before such 
attractions were artificially created. A fine drawing of her by James 
A. Grant, done after her retirement, shows a still handsome woman 
to whom old age has merely added a new distinction. 

Maude Royden was the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Royden, 
a wealthy Liverpool citizen. She was never good-looking; a dislocated 
hip made her lame from birth, and straight, bobbed dark hair framed 
her bespectacled eyes. Her magnetic charm came from her vitality, 
her eloquence, and her warm, musical voice. 

Although she was the product of such a ladylike background and 
education, Maude was to display a singularly unladylike persistence 
in her endeavours to occupy the pulpit of her own Church. She re- 
ceived her Second in Modern History in 1899; her fine mind found 
its natural expression in preaching rather than in scholarship. Her 
preaching caused her to be made a Companion of Honour in 1930. 
Even as a relatively young woman addressing Oxford graduates in 


1913 she succeeded in holding her critical audience on the unpromis- 
ing topic o Purity. 

Maude Royden remained a spinster until she married in her late 
sixties. But the reasons which kept both her and Eleanor Rath- 
bone from matrimony were totally different. There was no parallel 
in Maude Royden's personality with the complete lack o interest 
in sex relationships and problems which protected Eleanor Rathbone 
against frustration from her college days to the end o her life. 

Describing how Maude Royden worked for three years under the 
Rev. Hudson Shaw as his "curate" in the small country parish of 
South Luffenham, in Northamptonshire, Janet Courtney, illustrating 
her gaiety, mentioned the "peals of laughter" that came from the 
village schoolroom where Maude was holding a Bible class. Janet 
Courtney had not the knowledge to detect the heartbreak behind 
that laughter, but it was there just the same. In the first paragraph of 
A Threefold Cord, published in 1947, Maude Royden explains it: 

"Hudson Shaw and I met for tie first time in Oxford in 1901. 
We loved each other at sight." 

By that time Hudson Shaw had been married for several years. 
His wife, Effie, a fragile, fairylike creature, made the third strand of 
the threefold cord. Effie lived till almost the end of the Second World 
War. When Hudson Shaw and Maude Royden finally married he 
was eighty-five and she sixty-seven. Two months later she became 
a widow. 

Before her work at South Luffenham, Maude Royden had spent 
three years at the Victoria Women's Settlement in Liverpool. After 
her quasi-curacy she developed her beautiful voice as a University 
Extension lecturer. Always a strong advocate of equal citizenship, 
she became Editor in 1908 of The Commofi Cause, published by the 
National Union of Women Suffrage Societies. 

Her preaching started at the City Temple in 1917, and continued 
there under Dr Fort Newton. When Hudson Shaw, then incum- 
bent of St Botolph's, Bishopsgate, asked her to preach at his Three 
Hours Service in 1919, the Bishop of London, Dr A. F. Winnington 
Ingram, prohibited the arrangement, and the service had to take 
place in the parish hall. Two years later she actually preached at the 
church, unrestrained by the Bishop though without his approval. 

By that time her chief work had begun, with the pastorate of the 
Guildhouse, Eccleston Square. Here the Fellowship Services founded 
by Dr Percy Dearmer and herself were held for several years. 


Maude Royden's deepest convictions made her a pacifist, but she 
could not resist the compulsions of her time, and abandoned the 
pacifist position during both World Wars. Disregarding her unpopu- 
larity with former colleagues in the peace movement, she continued 
to protest passionately, if inconsistently, against the senseless 
slaughter of war. For her it was a blasphemy against the sacred 
human life which women created and men destroyed. 

After her husband died she lived very quietly, first at Sevenoaks 
and then in Hampstead, until her own death in 1956. At a memorial 
service on August 5 of that year in King's Weigh House Church in 
London, where she had sometimes preached, the Rev. Claude M. 
Coltman summed up her life and work. 

"No specious argument or perverse reasoning," he said, 

could withstand the thrust of her incisive mind and her humorous 
derision. With her kindly scorn she withered all woolly thinking 
and exposed all subterfuge and evasion in argument. How persistently, 
in her campaigning for the full and equal ministry of men and women, 
did she challenge ecclesiastics and theologians to produce those 'pro- 
found reasons' which, they alleged, justified the denial to women of 
the exercise of priestly functions. But none of these scholars ever 
dared to produce the reasons, either because they were too profound 
to be discovered, or else because they feared the effect upon them of 
Maude Royden's searching intelligence and inspiring wit. 

One year before the psychological tug-of-war between the Associa- 
tion for the Education of Women and the two senior colleges, Mrs 
Arthur Johnson had been given the courtesy tide of Principal of the 
Home Students. At the time little attention had been paid to this 
'appointment/ but after the period of tension which brought about 
her resignation as Secretary of the A.E.W. it suddenly appeared as a 
face-saving convenience. 

Though her tide carried no salary and her secretary received the 
magnificent payment of 2 a term, Mrs Johnson was now able to 
give all her time to fostering the growth of the Home Students, who 
had officially received this name in 1890. While enforcing new rules 
for registration, residence, and conduct, and keeping careful records, 
she was able to work out some of her own educational ideas. 

Bertha Johnson's father had been a well-known Irish physician, 
Robert Bentley Todd, who became Professor of Physiology at King's 
College, London. He believed in higher education for women, and 


Bertha, who was born in the same year as Miss Moberly, 1846, shared 
lessons and drill with her brother. 

She began her career by becoming an art student at the Slade 
School, and painted a portrait o Mrs Humphry Ward which was 
hung in the Royal Academy. The subsequent pressure of life com- 
pelled her to abandon her painting, but she never completely re- 
linquished music, which she also loved. Ruth Buder records that she 
played the Moonlight Sonata to her husband for the last time at 
the beginning of his final illness. 

Arthur Johnson had been an Eton friend of her girlhood who 
became an Oxford History Tutor, and Fellow and Chaplain of All 
Souls College. In the eighteen-seventies and -eighties they belonged 
to the enthusiastic group of young married friends who started the 
Lectures for Ladies. She, and later Mrs Burrows at St Hilda's, rooted 
though they were in the past, became the only married principals of 
Oxford women's colleges until Somerville chose Dr Janet Vaughan 
in 1945. 

For fifteen years after Mrs Johnson's appointment the Society of 
Home Students grew steadily, and developed the characteristics of 
a corporate society distinct from the halls. Its terminal meetings were 
held in the A.E.W. lecture-rooms, and it began to share in hockey 
matches and intercollegiate debates. In 1898 the Society established a 
Common Room in one section of a High Street teashop. This 
Common Room moved several times, until it found a relatively 
permanent centre at a litde house in Ship Street. 

As the Society contained many students who sought to combine 
home life with study, Mrs Johnson was an appropriate Principal; 
she understood their day-to-day problems, which genuinely interested 
her. More Americans were now coming over; between 1887 and 1907 
five Home Students became professors at Wellesley., Bryn Mawr, 
and Wells Colleges, and at the University of Puget Sound, in Wash- 
ington State. 2 The same decade produced six headmistresses, includ- 
ing Miss I. M. Drummond of the North London Collegiate School. 
Standards of scholarship also improved, and soon a year seldom 
passed without one or two Firsts. 

2 Their names were E. M. K. Kendall (1887), Professor of History, Wellesley 
College, Massachusetts; Katharine L Bates (1890), Professor of English Literature, 
Wellesley College; Lucy M. Donelly (1894), Professor of English, Bryn Mawr 
College, Pennsylvania; Katharine Keeler (1902), Associate Professor of English, 
Wells College, N.Y.; Rose Abell (1907), Professor of English Literature at the 
University of Puget Sound, Washington. 


When she finally resigned in 1921 at the age of seventy-five Mrs 
Johnson spoke with appreciative affection of the Society, which, 
more than any of the other women's foundations, had been a personal 

"To make its corporate life a success needs more ingenuity and 
effort than in a college/' she said; 

more loyalty, I was going to say more unselfish thought for others, 
perhaps owing to the Society's scattered nature, and to the very great 
variety in age, in nationality, in financial circumstances, in lines of 
study. It is perhaps more like the effort needed in life generally, and 
a very good preparation for it. 

In 1893 ten students from the newly founded St Hilda's Hall had 
brought the number of Home Students up to forty-four. St Hilda's 
sprang from the creative energy of Miss Dorothea Beale, still the 
Headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies' College. 

Miss Beale was now sixty-two. She had been at Cheltenham since 
1858, following a year of grim experience in the Clergy Daughters' 
School at Casterton, said to be the original of the school in Charlotte 
Bronte's Jane Eyre. At Cheltenham she had created her own institu- 
tion, introducing several subjects new to girls' schools, and disguising 
elementary Science as "Physical Geography" owing to the opposition 
to 'boys' subjects' of parents hoping for elegant marriageable 
daughters. An ardent admirer of Plato (in translation) and of Robert 
Browning, she allowed herself imaginative flights in her Scripture 

Her scholarship appears to have been shaky. Janet Courtney, who 
went to Cheltenham as a part-time teacher in 1888 after going down 
from Lady Margaret Hall, wrote later that she took her ethics from 
Browning and her metaphysics "from a mixture of St John and 
Plato misread in translation." Years afterwards Janet could still recall 
the "organ roll" of Miss Beale's voice quoting Rabbi Ben Ezra: 

All I aspired to be, 

And was not, comforts me 

(incorrectly, since Browning wrote, "What I aspired to be"). 

The great headmistresses of that late Victorian period had some- 
thing of a film-star quality. Supplied with a ready-made audience of 
respectful and admiring young maidenhood, they were perpetually 
acting a part and successfully 'putting over' their own idea of them- 
selves to others. 


Miss Beale 5 s portrait at Cheltenham, 3 painted by J. J. Shannon in 
1903, must surely have been a satisfactory rendering of the person she 
wanted to be. It shows an impressive character who suggests an 
eighteenth-century aristocrat, with a fine head crowned by carefully 
dressed white hair, and an opulent red robe which partially disguises 
a rotund figure. In a subtle fashion her awe-inspiring dignity makes 
even St Hilda's large dining-hall seem smaller. 

Socially, as the picture cleverly suggests, Miss Beale was a conser- 
vative head who made her school exclusive; * trade* was ruled out, 
and the daughters of retail shopkeepers were politely referred to other 
establishments. Her pupils' parents, though they included clergy- 
men, came mainly from the then too often illiberal ranks of retired 
Army officers and Indian civil servants. She opposed organized 
games until her late old age, and provided drill and dancing instead. 
Most of the numerous headmistresses whom she trained departed 
from her principles within a few years. 

But if Miss Beale' s ideas and scholarship typified the female short- 
comings of her day, and the architecture of her school seemed un- 
compromisingly hideous to later generations, her flab: for business 
and administration was unsurpassed. At the time of her death in 
1906 Cheltenham Ladies' College was a great organization filled to 
overflowing, with Senior and Junior Departments, and university 
classes carrying pupils on to the London B.A. 

When Miss Beale wanted some of the Cheltenham girls to attend 
Oxford lectures and found the arrangement difficult, she decided to 
open a hostel of her own where select pupils could spend a year "in 
intellectual pastures." She had only occasional contacts with Oxford, 
and did not realize that such a residence would have little in common 
with the existing women's colleges. 

Property previously acquired in the Banbury Road had proved to 
be a premature investment, but in 1893 she wrote: "This summer it 
seemed as if the chief impediments were removed; a house was 
offered me suitable for a small college in a very beautiful situation 
and I decided to buy it and open it in the autumn." 

The property was an eighteenth-century building known as 
Cowley House, in Cowley Place across Magdalen Bridge, with four 
acres of land in Cowley Fields. Miss Beale did not exaggerate the 
beauty of the site, with its unsurpassed view of the river Cherwell 
surrounded by rich meadows and graceful trees. A mill of the Tern- 
8 St Hilda's has a copy painted by Mts Everett. 


plars of Cowley had once stood by the east branch of the river, and 
near by was St Edmund's Well, famous in the thirteenth century as 
a source of healing. Not far away had been the bridge of which 
Wolsey made use to bring the stone from Headington quarries for 
his "Cardinal College" (Christ Church). 

Miss Beale bought the house for ^5000, and installed as Principal 
Mrs Esther Elizabeth Burrows. Mrs Burrows, of Cheltenham, had 
lost her husband in 1871 only a year after their marriage, and was left 
to support an infant daughter born after his death. To ease her strin- 
gent finances she took in some of the girls from the Ladies' College 
as boarders, and twenty-two years later seemed to be just the right 
person to take care of the new hostel. 

Her daughter, Christine Mary Elizabeth, who had been a student 
at Lady Margaret Hall since 1891, now moved to St Hilda's; owing 
to their dependence on each other for affection, she and her mother 
had always been close companions. Seventeen years afterwards she 
was to take her mother's place as Principal. 4 

The house in Cowley Place, with four students, was finally opened 
by Dr Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford, in November 1893 as another 
Church of England establishment. Miss Beale had named it after 
St Hilda of Whitby because she was England's first great woman 
educator, and "had laid deep stress on peace and love." 

"I want none to go for the sake of a pleasant life," wrote Miss 
Beale in the Cheltenham College Magazine; "none, merely for self- 
culture, but that they may do better service for the glory of the 
Creator and the relief of man's estate." 

Unfortunately the finances of the Hall did not quite match this 
magnificent ideal. They were, in fact, so tight that Mrs Burrows and 
her daughter received purely nominal salaries, and did much 
domestic work not normally the obligation of college tutors. At this 
moment the A.E.W. was reorganizing itself after its rebuff by the 
two major colleges and placing its Home Students, as an official 
body, in the care of Mrs Johnson. It now stepped in to help Miss 
Beale's struggling litde hostel, and agreed to register students on 
condition that St Hilda's be put on probation for three years under 
Mrs Johnson's supervision in order that "it should be given the 
opportunity of putting itself on a level with the existing halls." 

After thus functioning as a branch of the Home Students, St 

4 One of Mrs Burrow's assets was her knowledge, acquired as a private interest, 
of Oxford university history. 


Hilda's Hall was formally recognized in the Michaelmas term of 
1896. Its students now included D. EL Broster, afterwards well 
known as the author of historical novels which included The 
Wounded Name, The Flight of the Heron, and The Vision Splen- 
did. Another outstanding member of the College, Eleanour Sinclair 
Rohde, followed her in 1900; she became temporary Vice-Principal 
and History Tutor at St Hilda's in 1910, and subsequently made a 
reputation by her books and lectures on gardens. Though mainly 
intended for Cheltenham pupils, the house by 1904 had forty students 
who had not been at the school. 

For the first four years Miss Beale was mainly responsible for 
financing the little community; through her the college received, in 
all, about ^50,000. Soon she began to accept gifts from her friends in 
the form of scholarships and loans for needy students, and additions 
to the library. 

"I laid its foundations/' she wrote to them, "with money gained 
by a contribution to The Spectator, and the first books bought are 
Jowett's Plato and Hutton's Essays." 

In 1897 the Hall added a south wing and acquired a Council in 
order to qualify for recognition by the A.E.W. Dr J. R. Magrath, 
the Provost of Queen's College, became its first Chairman. 

During the year of St Hilda's foundation a leaflet was published 
On Women Students in Oxford, which ran as follows : 

Oxford offers to women many advantages for special study and 
some advantages which are not yet granted to men. It does not confer 
degrees upon women but at the same time it does not impose on them 
certain regulations enforced in the case of men. 

Like most of the privileges which have handicapped women in 
their struggle for equal citizenship, these 'advantages' increasingly 
proved to be illusions. Oxford women in pursuit of posts after going 
down soon encountered the scepticism which greeted their lack of a 
formal degree. 

At no time before 1920 was there any evidence that women had 
ever been members of Oxford University, or had tried to enter it. The 
medieval city, with its monastic traditions and federation of residen- 
tial colleges, contained no place for them. Change began to come 
with the Royal Commission of 1850 and the liberal modifications that 
marked the second half of the nineteenth century. University preroga- 
tives were granted at last to groups of students which were not 


Oxford colleges in the sense previously understood. Keble College 
formed a precedent for the recognition of women's colleges in spite 
of its different origin. 

After 1890, encouraged by the opening of all the university 
examinations to women, more students at the women's colleges 
began to take the degree course. In 1894 the President of the A.E.W., 
Mr T. H. Grose, decided to approach the university with a request 
for the degree, though not yet for full membership. At once the 
opposition of Mrs Johnson, in disagreement with most of her friends, 
became apparent; she insisted that the "narrow curriculum" re- 
quired for die B.A. was "a boot made to fit men rather than women." 
Like Miss Clough at Cambridge twenty-five years earlier, she had no 
inhibitions against women capitalizing whatever 'advantages' their 
sex could command. 

The A.E.W. rejected her alternative suggestions, and a long con- 
troversy began which involved the usual epidemic of fly-leaves, 
memorials, and letters to the Press. Except for one or two casual 
references to "Ladies' Degrees," the Oxford Magazine virtually 
ignored the struggle. But in 1927 one of its correspondents referred 
to "the great fight of 1896, when Oxford was flooded with literature 
and The Times with letters." 

Numerous committees sprang up in Oxford. Cambridge and 
Dublin supported some of their members who suggested the estab- 
lishment of a special women's university; persons prominent in 
education were consulted, including the Councils of the women's 
colleges. Somerville and St Hugh's passed resolutions in favour of 
seeking the degree; Lady Margaret Hall rejected the proposal by a 
small majority. 

Though this bygone controversy now represents a forgotten 
episode in Oxford history, it is still of interest to recall which promi- 
nent personalities supported degrees for women over sixty years ago, 
and which opposed them. The degree party included Mr T. H. 
Grose; Professor Arthur Sidgwick; Mr (later Sir) Charles H. Firth; 
Professor A. V. Dicey; Mr (later Sir) Herbert Warren, afterwards 
President of Magdalen; Dr John Magrath, Provost of Queen's; and 
Lady Evans, of Lady Margaret Hall (formerly Maria Lathbury, a 
gifted classical archaeologist). 

Among their opponents, in addition to Mrs Johnson, were Dr A. L. 
Smith, the future Master of Balliol, who wanted to wait for Cam- 
bridge; Miss Lucy Soulsby, the third Headmistress of Oxford High 


School; Sir Frederick Pollock; Professor Percy Gardner (a Cam- 
bridge man who had for some years held the Chair of Classical 
Archaeology at Oxford); Mr L. R. Farnell, later Rector of Exeter 
and Vice-Chancellor in 1920, who feared a large increase in the 
number of women students; the Rev. C. L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), 
who wanted a women's university; Mr A. D. Godley, whose opposi- 
tion took a metrical form; and the Oxford Union, which rejected a 
motion in favour of women's admission to the B.A. by 165 votes 
to 55. 

Professor Gardner argued that the curriculum for the B.A. degree 
was a "crushing force" which it would be cruel to impose on women, 
while their admission to it would "thoroughly assimilate" the educa- 
tion of the sexes and lead to "a softening of moral fibre." Mr Godley 
wrote in a current number of the Oxford Magazine: 

Doomed to a course that's narrow, your recklessness you'll rue, 
The toad beneath a harrow will be happier than you. 

At this date London University had been giving degrees to women 
for seventeen years, and the Scottish universities for three. 

To the arguments of their opponents the degree party patiently 
replied that in many ways women suffered from the much-publicized 
"elasticity" of their system, and would benefit by severer discipline. 
Above all, for the indefatigable Arthur Sidgwick and his colleagues, 
was the "great lift" which the university's recognition of its women 
students would give to girls' education all over the country. On 
February 6, 1896, he wrote in The Times: "Mr Gardner talks of 
the women students as 'honoured guests* at Oxford. It is not my idea 
of honouring a guest to make her do all the work and refuse her due 
recognition and rewards." 

Eventually the Hebdomadal Council appointed a committee to 
consider whether women's exclusion from the B.A. degree had 
damaged their professional prospects in tuition, and how far their 
admission would injuriously affect their education. For the first time 
in Oxford history several women gave evidence before the represen- 
tatives of the university; among them were Miss Wordsworth, Miss 
Maitland, Mrs Johnson, Annie Rogers, the Principals of the Royal 
Holloway College and of Bedford College, London, and several head- 

Miss Wordsworth believed that if women came to Oxford for the 
sake of the university their education should be as nearly as possible 


like that of its members. She continued, however, by saying that she 
did not approve of women being allowed to compete for university 
prizes, as "it would be bad for girls, so easily stimulated, to recite 
the Newdigate in a crowded theatre." 

Recording this opinion in her book Degrees by Degrees, Annie 
Rogers added drily in a footnote: "Such recitations took place in 
1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 without any apparent sign of undue agita- 
tion in the reciters." 

Eventually the Hebdomadal Council came to a twofold conclusion. 
It seemed possible, they said, that the lack of a degree might some- 
times have proved disadvantageous to Oxford women candidates for 
posts, but cases of hardship appeared to be infrequent. On the other 
hand, they believed that a stricter course of study would be prefer- 
able to the existing indefinite arrangements for women, and this 
advantage might be secured by granting the degree without abolish- 
ing the current freedom of choice. 

Presented with this convenient Victorian example of 'double- 
think,' the members of Congregation eagerly seized on the first con- 
clusion while blandly ignoring the loophole in favour of women 
offered by the second. 

"This verdict," Professor Gardner wrote jubilantly in The Times 
of February u, 1896, "removes the one great fear of many of us 
who oppose the Degree, the fear of inflicting hardship on those 
women who study among us. We can now go forward with a light 

That "light heart" caused Congregation, on March 3, 1896, to 
reject by 215 votes to 140 a resolution to grant the B.A. to women. 
The following week it also rejected alternative proposals for a 
diploma or certificate. Conservative Oxford was determined that its 
women students 5 should still be regarded as 'guests/ compelled to 
use infiltration as their only technique. 

A contemporary issue of Punch published a cartoon of Minerva 
finding her way blocked by a college don of the old clerical type, 
saying suavely, "Very sorry, Miss Minerva, but perhaps you are not 
aware that this is a monastic establishment." Professor Sidgwick 
compensated for his disappointment by emulating his poetic oppo- 

5 According to the Oxford Maga^ine^ the total number of undergraduates in 
residence in 1890 was 2676, while The Society of Oxford Home Students (ed. R. F. 
Butler and M. H. Prichard) states that in 1899 there were 202 women on the books 
of the five societies. The women whose influence seemed to be so much feared 
therefore represented about one-thirteenth of all the students at Oxford. 


nent Mr A. D. Godley, and contributing "A Ballad of Blue B.A.s" 
to the Oxford Magazine. To be sung to the air of Joc\ o* Hazeldean, 
it ended with the following verse: 

The House was decked at morning light, 

The papers glimmered fair; 

The Proctors waited a s the night, 

The bulldogs baith were there; 

They sought in College and in Ha 5 , 

The ladye wadna stay; 

She's o'er the borders and awa' 

To win a Scots B A. 

The results of the discussion were not confined to Oxford. The 
anti-degree party pressed its scheme for a women's university, but 
this was defeated by the decision of Holloway College (founded by 
Martin Holloway as an independent degree-giving college on Ameri- 
can lines, as at Vassar, and opened by Queen Victoria in 1886) to 
become part of the proposed teaching University of London, and by 
a letter in The Times (July 8, 1897) signed by Miss Beale and 150 
other headmistresses. 

The educational experience of women acting by themselves [they 
wrote] would be a poor substitute for the intellectual life and scholar- 
ship of a great University A Women's University means an un- 
certain and probably a low standard, a more limited experience, and 
a danger of rash experiment. 

That same year Cambridge, whether influenced by Oxford or not, 
rejected the idea of even titular degrees for women by 1707 votes to 
661 a worse defeat than that of the Oxford women, as the position 
of the Cambridge colleges had been better. A pitched battle had 
occurred, instead of Oxford's colourful skirmishing followed by 
peaceful failure; in consequence anti-feminism gained so firm a hold 
that Cambridge University postponed degrees for women until 

Seven years after the Cambridge rebuff Trinity College, Dublin, 
threw open its degrees, with great profit to itself, to qualified women 
from other universities. Passing judgment on the controversy, Annie 
Rogers wrote: "The real strength of the opposition lay, not in any 

6 The decision was made in 1947, but did not take effect until the beginning of 
the academic year 194849. 


alleged care for the education or health of women, but in a dislike 
and fear of their presence in the University." 

But the best and most far-sighted summary had appeared in 
Academy for November 7, 1896: 

The novelty of the proposal will wear off and the fears, at once 
perfectly natural and perfectly unreasonable, which drove many mem- 
bers of the University to the verge of panic will die away. The case is 
primarily one of those, frequent in politics, in which opinions are not 
changed deliberately out of deference to convincing arguments, but are 
unconsciously modified by the silent influence of circumstances. 

Chapter 6: Towards Recognition 


the South African War, in which a Keble graduate won the V.C. 1 
and many Oxford men served with the colours. Unlike its two 
successors, this war was too remote to affect the women students 
unless their own families were involved. 

More significant was the end of the epoch which had held women 
in tutelage. After recording the twenty-first anniversary of the Home 
Students, celebrated in the hall of All Souls College on January 26, 
1901, by an address from Mrs Humphry Ward on "Peasant Life in 
the Novel," Mrs Johnson's Report loyally continues: "The social 
entertainment which the Principal had arranged to follow the lecture 
was abandoned on account of the then recent death of our beloved 
Queen, which had filled our hearts with sorrow." 

Two years later the first Rhodes Scholars brought another new 
element into university life. In 1899 the last of Cecil Rhodes' s seven 
wills provided scholarships for sixty men from South Africa, Aus- 
tralia, New Zealand, and Canada to study at Oxford. Later the 
scheme was widened to include two scholars from each state of the 
American Union; fifteen Germans, of whom five arrived annually 
up to 1914; one from Malta; and (after 1949) one each from India 
and Pakistan. 

Oxford was now a cosmopolitan and not merely an English uni- 
versity; these students from the far places added colour to its life 
and enlarged its horizons. But there were no women among them. 
Cecil Rhodes' s dream of an extended British Empire did not include 
its female citizens. 

The same year that saw the arrival of the first Rhodes Scholars also 
witnessed a sudden acceleration of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 
which for a quarter of a century, patiendy and constitutionally, had 
run into one political stone wall after another. In 1903 Mrs Pank- 
hurst in Manchester formed the Women's Social and Political Union, 
and the Militant Suffrage campaign began. 

1 See C. E. Mallet, A. History of the University of Oxford, volume Hi, page 476. 


Most Oxford women dons judiciously avoided choosing between 
the constitutional and the militant technique, though the private 
sentiments of a vigorous modern-minded few would have been 
worth investigating. The students, less discreet, formed a Women 
Students' Suffrage Society with a magnificent banner, which its 
members carried triumphantly to the Albert Hall in the great pro- 
cession of 1908. 

By that time the General Election of 1906 had swept the Conserva- 
tive Government ignominiously from power, and sent a Liberal 
administration under Herbert Henry Asquith to the House of 
Commons. This Government was so illiberal towards Woman Suff- 
rage that its members became the special targets of militant attack, 
but its election formed part of the twentieth-century developments 
which brought about a new demand for university reform. 

Several changes beneficial to women students accompanied this 
progressive impetus. Following the abolition of the "Women's 
First" examination after 1899, the university withdrew, in 1903, its 
permission for women to offer only part of certain Honours schools. 
In April 1907 the A.E.W. presented to the Hebdomadal Council a 
petition, signed by 155 members of Congregation, who included 23 
professors, asking for women to be admitted as candidates for the 
"Certificate of Merit," which qualified members of the university 
to "supplicate" for the research degrees of B.Litt. and B.Sc. 

Coming at a time when university reform was much discussed, this 
petition had a far-reaching effect. In 1906 Magdalen College, the last 
to keep its doors closed, had admitted women to lectures. A year 
later Bishop Gore of Birmingham, and later of Oxford, asked in the 
House of Lords for the appointment of a new Royal Commission on 
Oxford and Cambridge with the idea of using their resources to 
benefit all classes of society. This move drew its strength from the 
Liberal victory, from the increasing pressure of the Woman Suffrage 
Movement, and from a great Workers 5 Educational Association Con- 
ference held in Oxford in 1907. 

Out of all these sources a new attitude towards women developed 
at Oxford during the years immediately preceding the First World 
War. In February 1912, when the Arnold Society of Balliol chal- 
lenged the Somerville Debating Society to a joint debate on the 
motion "That this House is resolved that in matters of franchise no 
distinction should be made between men and women," the sup- 
porters of equality won by 86 votes to 26. 


At this period the "Somerville Parliament" of 1907-14 had be- 
come famous. It was doomed first by the War and then by the 
coming of degrees; all-male and all-female organizations lost their 
savour as soon as joint university societies became possible. But while 
it lasted, with the full House of Commons technicalities accurately 
worked out, the "Parliament" taught Somerville speakers to debate 
in an atmosphere close to reality. At the Balliol-Somerville inter- 
change the Master of Balliol took the chair in the Masonic Hall, and 
the Oxford Magazine subsequently brought out a chastened report. 

After commenting on the unexpected standard of the Somerville 
speeches its note actually referred to "the much higher level of debate 
that would be reached in most Oxford societies if only women could 

take part Not a few undergraduates," it added, "left the Hall in 

deep thought." 

The following year a similar debate was arranged with New Col- 
lege, at which Mr H. A. L. Fisher, later the Warden, took the chair, 
and subsequendy the undergraduate magazine, Isis, offered the 
women's colleges a "Woman's Page." This condescension was 
coldly refused; the women students had by now acquired self-respect, 
and preferred their own lively magazine, The Fritillary, in which 
they were not confined to * women's' topics. 

For the individual women's colleges the new spirit meant a con- 
stantly increasing pressure from would-be students and the need, 
with inadequate finances, to provide more accommodation. Not only 
Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville, but the younger foundations, 
St Hugh's and St Hilda's, were compelled to expand during this 

In 1901 St Hugh's took over another house in Norham Gardens, 
and in 1909 acquired a further addition, Fyfield Lodge. Two years 
later the Hall was incorporated as St Hugh's College, with a con- 
stitution similar to that of the other women's colleges which were 
all eventually to realize that as a permanency this model had serious 
defects. Notwithstanding its attainment of a higher status, St Hugh's 
was still understaffed and short of funds; its^ students carried out 
much of their own domestic work. 

Between 1900 and 1903 these students included a gifted young his- 
torian, Cecilia Mary Ady, who took a First in Modern History and 
from 1909 to 1923 was Tutor in this subject at her own college. 
Her vivid reconstructions of the Italian Renaissance were to be un- 



happily interrupted for a few years by unsought controversy, but 
St Hugh's subsequently gave her a Research Fellowship from 1929 
to 1950, when she was elected to an Honorary Fellowship. 

Miss Moberly, who never herself mastered the tedious essentials of 
domesticity, spent much of each day in her sitting-room which was 
crowded with heavy furniture, family portraits, and her father's 
theological works studying the first fifteen centuries of the Christian 
era, and making notes for her book Five Visions of the Revelation. 
Besides preparing her Sunday-evening divinity lectures, into which 
she brought imaginative word-pictures of the Golden City, she fol- 
lowed the Moberly tradition by founding musical organizations. 
Soon St Hugh's began to attract musical girls, who joined madrigal 
societies and formed string quartets. 

In 1911 Miss Moberly published Dulce Domum, the history of her 
father and family. She made the mistake of showing the manuscript 
to her relatives, who, like most relatives taken into an author's con- 
fidence, insisted on cuts which deprived the work of vitality. But by 
now, and for years to come, Miss Moberly had found something else 
to think about besides this book or even St Hugh's. 

In the summer following the death of Queen Victoria she had paid 
a vacation visit to Versailles. With her went her Vice-Principal-elect, 
Eleanor Jourdain, but the plan for Miss Jourdain to go to St Hugh's 
was not yet final. In her edition of An Adventure Dr Joan Evans 
explains that the joint trip to Paris was a method of finding out how 
the two women got on together. 

Judging from the photograph published by Lucille Iremonger of 
Miss Jourdain in middle age, we may suppose that by 1901, after 
some years as headmistress of a small private school known as Corran, 
at Watford, the round-faced Lady Margaret Hall student with the 
keen grey eyes was becoming a little portly. Dr Evans tells us that 
her sandy hair early turned a silvery white, and "became her chief 
beauty." The portrait of Miss Jourdain that she publishes does its 
best for its subject, making her face appear both sensitive and frank. 

Miss Jourdain had for some time taken a great interest in France, 
and in 1904 was awarded a doctor's degree at the University of Paris. 
She brought to all she did, comments the sympathetic writer of her 
obituary notice in The Times, "a French sense of finish and style." 

The consequences of that joint visit to Versailles are widely known 
and still discussed. Missing their way to the Petit Trianon in the 
great park, the two women found themselves, so they recorded later, 


in a garden which had long disappeared, and spoke to a variety of 
individuals who had lived at the time of the French Revolution. A 
sad-faced woman in a light summer dress, wearing a shady white 
hat and sketching under the trees, they believed to be Marie- 
Antoinette herself. 

Not only Miss Moberly but Miss Jourdain claimed familiarity with 
psychic experiences; the books by Edith Olivier and Lucille Ire- 
monger give details of some of these. Miss Jourdain even believed 
that she once saw a gallows, surrounded by a mediaeval procession, 
in that respectable North Oxford thoroughfare, St Margaret's Road. 
When Miss Moberly recounted her experiences she expected to be 
taken at her word, and became indignant when the Society for 
Psychical Research demanded something more substantial in the way 
of evidence. 

For the next ten years the two women proceeded to check their 
impressions by research, which consisted mainly of reading some 
well-known books on the places and period that they believed them- 
selves to have entered in a trance. As others have emphasized, their 
notion of research was somewhat elementary. Miss Moberly, not 
being a university woman, had more excuse for her ready convictions 
than Miss Jourdain. On the other hand, Miss Moberly had clearly 
the stronger personality, and if we wish to treat Miss Jourdain more 
kindly than her critics have done we should probably be justified in 
supposing that some of her objections were overruled. 

In 1911, using the pseudonyms of Elizabeth Morison and Frances 
Lamont, Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain published the story of 
their 'Adventure.' Immediately it created a sensation, for it appeared 
to be, in Lucille Iremonger's words, "one of the best authenticated 

ghost stories of all time Never had such a story come from such 

a source." 

Between its first publication and 1955 the book went through five 
editions, each of the first four being reprinted. A 1931 edition had a 
preface by Edith Olivier and a note by J. W. Dunne, the author of 
An Experiment with Time. To the fifth edition Dr Joan Evans, to 
whom Miss Moberly bequeathed the copyright of the book, added a 
brief character-sketch of the two authors. Lucille Iremonger wrote 
her commentary, The Ghosts of Versailles, after discovering that a 
short broadcast made in 1954 on the Adventure and her own college, 
St Hugh's, immediately brought her a spate of letters and made her 
the centre of a passionate controversy. 


This is not the place to judge between the eminent readers who 
have treated An Adventure as a serious experience and those who 
dismiss it, like Mr A. J. P. Taylor, as "an inflated fantasy." Given 
indifferent standards of scholarship combined with a strong will to 
believe, it is perhaps not difficult to explain both An Adventure and 
its popularity. 

The significant fact still remains that after 1911, barely protected 
by the flimsy disguise of pseudonyms which were not abandoned till 
after Miss Jourdain's death, the two women became objects of in- 
terest to the vast numbers who seek in the supernatural some compen- 
sation for the sorrows and disappointments of human life. They were 
Public Characters and, however strong their determination may 
have been to remain conscientious Oxford dons and nothing else, 
their perspective must have been changed precisely as it is changed 
for all who undergo the experience of national publicity. 2 

Meanwhile, at Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville, a group of 
fine scholars most of whom were to receive very little publicity had 
come up as students. 

Together at Lady Margaret Hall in 1900 were Barbara Elizabeth 
Gwyer, eventually to become the Principal of St Hugh's after tem- 
porary catastrophe had engulfed the college, and Katharine Ada 
McDowall, the historian of English sculpture, who married Arundell 
Esdaile. The following Year contained a future writer, Winifred 
Knox (subsequently Lady Peck), daughter of Bishop Knox of Man- 
chester and sister of E. V. Knox of Punch and Monsignor Ronald 
Knox. She followed her First in Modern History with a number of 
novels, including They Come, They Go, and There is a Fortress. 

In an autobiographical volume, A Little Learning, Winifred Peck 
wrote of the enchantment which gilded those early years at Lady 
Margaret Hall, when the students young for their age and equipped 

2 In 1957 a chance journey to Paris enabled me to visit Versailles with my husband 
and our host the Sardar Panikkar, Indian Ambassador to France. On a fresh June 
morning we deliberately took the same path as Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain 
instead of going "sharp right down the Alice des Deux Trianons," and found 
nothing mysterious or even romantic about the place, which seemed to be just a 
well-kept country garden. But on a hot, somnolent August afternoon the atmo- 
sphere was no doubt quite different, even though Miss Moberly's first account 
tells us that "there was a lively wind blowing." Several paths run off the main 
lanes into woods or "meadows," and the least psychic person with a poor sense of 
direction could easily lose herself. Keen imagination, and a developed conviction 
based on past unexplained incidents, might well lend a special significance to such 
an adventure. 


with little knowledge of political and literary movements discovered 
for the first time the great benefit of privacy, usually unobtainable in 
large Victorian households. They had also the stimulus of contacts, 
otherwise unlikely, with some remarkable personalities. Years after- 
wards Lady Peck recalled Mr J. A. R, Marriott "storming up and 
down," Mr Ernest Barker "drooping with melancholy humour 
at his desk," and Canon Spooner with "his head ever poking for- 
ward as if in search of his unruly phrases." 

"Never again," she wrote, "in the happiest moments of our rela- 
tions in life can we enjoy freedom without responsibility. And that 
was what Lady Margaret Hall gave us for those magic years." 

Winifred Knox's last year was the first for Mary Pickford, the 
daughter of Lord Sterndale, Master of the Rolls, who was destined 
after a Second in Modern History to be the first Member contributed 
by Lady Margaret Hall to the House of Commons. In 1931 she was 
elected M.P. for North Hammersmith, and appointed to be the one 
woman on the Joint Select Committee to consider the future Govern- 
ment of India. She appeared to be certain of office in the next Con- 
servative administration, when premature death after a short illness 
cut her off in 1934. 

Another remarkable student of this date, Miss Freire-Marreco, 
afterwards Mrs Robert Aitken, became a Mary Somerville Research 
Fellow in 1909, and went to New Mexico to live among the Pueblo 
Indians and study their customs. 

During the first seven years of the century Somerville College 
added two more tutors to the fine team appointed in the nineties. 
One of these, first as temporary History Tutor and then for a short 
time as Librarian, was Rose Sidgwick, the daughter of Arthur 
Sidgwick, who as a Home Student had taken a First in Modern 
History in 1899. She did not live to fulfil the promise confidently 
expected from the daughter of so progressive a father, for she died 
in the United States at the age of forty-one while acting as a member 
of the 1918 British Universities Mission. 

Emily Overend, the daughter of an Irish judge, was a Somerville 
student of 1903 who three years later took a First in German. The 
following year she returned to Somerville as Tutor in Germanic 
Philology, but held the post only for a short time. In 1910 she married 
Lieut-Colonel D. L. R. Lorimer, C.I.E., the brother of Hilda Lock- 
hart Lorimer, became her husband's secretary, and worked with him 
in the study of Modern Persian dialects. In 1917, as Editor and 


Manager of the Basrah Times, she was mentioned in dispatches 
from Mesopotamia. 

Two future principals of women's societies went up to Somerville 
as students in the same year, 1900, that Barbara Gwyer arrived at 
Lady Margaret Hall. Helen Darbishire, 3 the daughter of an Oxford 
doctor and a pupil of the Oxford High School, was to be associated 
with Oxford for almost the whole of her professional life. As a 
Pfeiffer Scholar in English she obtained First-class Honours in 1903 
after being awarded the Coombs Prize 4 for literature, and returned 
to Somerville in 1908 as English Tutor. She held this post until she 
became Principal of the college in 1931. 

Grace Hadow, 5 whose father was a Gloucestershire clergyman, 
had an elder brother, W. H. Hadow (later Sir Henry), who had been 
on the Somerville Council since 1899. In that year she became one of 
the last students to take the "Women's First" examination, but she 
qualified later for a degree while holding the post of Secretary at 
Barnett House. 

Grace Hadow's career was oddly similar to Helen Darbishire's, 
except that at college she appears to have been distinguished chiefly 
as a speaker who became President of the Women's Intercollegiate 
Debating Society. Like her contemporary, she took a First in English 
in 1903, and was destined to become English Tutor at Lady Mar- 
garet Hall from 1906 to 1911, Secretary for nine years at Barnett 
House, and Principal of the Oxford Home Students in 1929. She 
differed from Helen Darbishire in one important respect: in spite of 
the First in English, she was a gifted social worker rather than a 
graceful and distinguished scholar. 

A famous contemporary of the two subsequent principals was the 
future Dame Rose Macaulay, whose clever ironic novels were to 
appear for fifty years. Her first novel was published in 1906, and her 
last, The Towers of Trebizond, which won the James Tait Black 
Memorial Prize, in 1956. Among her better-known books were 
Potterism (1920), Dangerous Ages (1921), which received the Femina 
Vie-Heureuse Prize, Told by an Idiot (1923), and The World My 
Wilderness (1950). In addition to her numerous novels she wrote 
essays, literary criticism, occasional poetry, and travel books, among 

3 See Chapter 9. 

4 One of several Sometville awards established in memory of Edith Anna Coombs 
(1881-85). See p. 83. 8 See Chapter 8. 


them being Fabled Shore (1949) and Pleasure of Ruins (1953). Late 
in her life, Cambridge conferred on her an Honorary Litt.D., and 
in the New Year Honours List for 1957 she became a D.B.E. The 
following year she died, aged seventy-seven. 

At Oxford Rose Macaulay's contemporaries included Henrietta 
Caroline Escreet, who became a factory inspector and was H.M. 
Deputy Superintending Inspector of Factories from 1921 to 1923; 
and Christina Frances Hicks, who married E. V, Knox, the Editor 
of Punch. 

Just after this group went down, another woman of influence in 
her generation came up to Somerville, but did not stay. In 1904 
Margaret Haig Thomas (later the Viscountess Rhondda, proprietor 
and Editor of Time and Tide), found the college "frowsty," and 
departed without waiting to adapt herself to its unfamiliar routine. 
In A Little Learning Winifred Peck recalls Margaret Thomas, whom 
she had known at St Leonard's School, asking her in the midst of 
her happiness at Lady Margaret Hall whether she liked going on 
with "this schoolgirl business." 

Though she offered in her autobiography, This Was My World, a 
half-apology for her immature failure to realize what Somerville 
meant, Lady Rhondda wrote: 

I disliked the ugliness of most of the public rooms, and I disliked the 
glass and the crockery and the way in which the tables were set. I 

disliked the food, and, more still, the way in which it was served 

And I disliked the dowdiness of the dons, and more still that of the 
other girls. 

These dislikes presumably accompanied her through life, for when 
she died in 1958 at the age of seventy-five she seems to have left no 
bequest from a once large fortune to an Oxford women's college. 

No doubt Somerville did not appear to offer much comfort or 
convenience to a cherished only child from a wealthy home endowed 
with every form of luxury. Even in the next decade poor cooking 
and graceless serving rivalled Virginia Woolf 's description of Newn- 
ham College suppers in A Room of One's Own. Bathrooms were 
still scanty, and the 'hot' water was invariably tepid; the poor- 
quality coal which after a struggle warmed the students' small studies 
was quite inadequate for large public rooms and long, draughty 
corridors; and anyone unlucky enough to fall ill was usually left to 
the mercy of domestic ministrations as inexpert as they were casual. 


Only a mature girl with a vision large enough to see beyond these 
minor exasperations was likely to tolerate the contrast between college 
rough-and-tumble and a comfortable home. But many of the women 
students, no longer confined to the pioneering families of the upper 
clergy or the households of wealthy Liberal industrialists, were now 
beginning and more perhaps at Somerville than at the Anglican 
foundations to come from homes which were not comfortable at 
all. One Somerville writer of a later generation than Lady Rhondda 
was subsequently to record her own intimidation by "the shrill 
clamour of feminine accents from every geographical area" and "the 
long-sleeved dowdiness of dinner frocks." 

To this college, deeply attached to its standards of scholarship and 
totally indifferent to ugliness and dowdiness, came a new Principal 
in 1907. After her "first woman's First" in "Greats," Emily Penrose 
had been Principal of Bedford College from 1893 to J ^9^ an< ^ t ^ en 
of Royal Holloway College until her appointment to succeed Miss 
Maidand at Somerville. She was an outstanding person both in 
ability and in stature, and one of the greatest heads that the Oxford 
women's colleges have known. 

As the first genuine scholar among women principals Miss 
Penrose typified the developing mental values of women, 
and the changing attitudes of men towards them, as the new 
century progressed. If the transition from Miss Shaw Lefevre to 
Miss Maidand could be described as 'lady into woman,' the change 
from capable domestic economy to uncompromising intellectual 
expectations could equally well be summarized as 'woman into 

At the time of Miss Penrose's appointment Miss Wordsworth had 
still a year to fulfil of her three decades at Lady Margaret Hall. The 
two women symbolized the old and the new; the old with its 
unscholarly elegance and grace, the new with its inexorable standards 
of achievement. 

As an M.A. (1904) of Dublin Miss Penrose began the modern era 
in which trained scholars replaced, as principals, the daughters of 
bishops and headmasters. At first she combined the office of "Greats " 
Tutor with that of Head, but under the pressure of administrative 
work she was obliged one imagines with great reluctance to give 
up the tutorship. 

After the defeats of the previous decade at both Oxford and Cam- 
bridge, the prospect of degrees for women was not encouraging. Miss 


Penrose immediately realized that the strongest argument for their 
institution would be the number of women qualified to receive them. 
By 1914 Somerville under her guidance was refusing students who 
would not take the degree course. When degrees were finally granted, 
the numerous Somervillians of her day who became B.A.'s without 
further preliminaries owed to Miss Penrose' s vision their escape from 
the elementary but toil-demanding examinations perforce taken by 
many grey-haired tutors side by side with amused undergraduates 
of both sexes. 

For all her prophetic and administrative gifts, Miss Penrose's per- 
sonality lacked both ease and charm. She was acutely, excruciatingly 
shy, but hers was not the gentle, diffident shyness of her Vice- 
Principal, Alice Bruce, nor the mere brusque aloofness of so many 
college dons. It was a stern, repellent quality which, except for the 
few who knew and understood her, tended to throw an immediate 
barrier between herself and the individual with whom she sincerely 
desired to establish sympathy. 

She felt a deep concern for anyone in trouble or want, and not 
least for the bereaved students of the First World War, but even to 
these she appeared an intimidating woman, alarmingly suggestive of 
a tiger about to spring. They found it impossible to think of her in 
any relationship familiar to normal domestic life, though she was 
actually a popular and kindly aunt. 

In spite of this unfair attribution of inhuman traits, no one doubted 
her vigour and conscientiousness as a public servant, or her impartial 
sense of justice. Her ability (usually described as 'masculine') to per- 
ceive and work for main issues was combined with an equal capacity 
for ignoring the trivial and irrelevant. So concentrated a stateswoman 
did she always appear that it came as a surprise to many of her 
students to discover that she was a graceful skater, a fearless 
mountain-climber, a good watercolour painter, and even an expert 
in the feminine art of embroidery. 

In 1946 The Times obituary notice of her life and work concluded 
with a judgment which might well serve as her epitaph: "For all her 
masculine powers and feminine accomplishments, her great qualities 
were neither masculine nor feminine, but simply those that belong to 
great persons/' 

Seven Somerville 'Firsts' from the previous summer welcomed 
Miss Penrose to her post, and she soon made certain that there would 
be more to come. The first new tutors of her Principalship included 


Helen Darbishire and, three years later as History Tutor, Margaret 
Hayes Robinson (afterwards Mrs Kenneth Leys). 

In 1908, when the university established the Faculty of Modern 
Languages, Mildred Katharine Pope came into her own; this new 
Honours school was largely the consequence of her pioneer work. 
She was now recognized as the chief authority on French philology, 
and subsequently became a Taylorian Lecturer. As University Reader 
in French Philology in 1928, she held the first readership to which 
Oxford appointed a woman. 

The financial and administrative ability of Miss Penrose herself 
was recognized in 1911 by her appointment to the Royal Commission 
on University Grants. A year later Somerville established the Lady 
Carlisle Research Fellowship for the benefit of graduate students. 

As though to show what women could do before the First World 
War changed Victorian values for ever, the years 1910 to 1914 
brought a galaxy of talent to both Somerville and Lady Margaret 
Hall similar to that which had coincided with the opening of the 

Somerville's 1910 students included Julia de Lacy Mann, subse- 
quently to be Principal of St Hilda's College for twenty-seven years. 
Vera Farnell came up in 1911, and four years later, after taking a 
First in French, began her long service to Somerville as Librarian, 
Principal* s Secretary, Dean and Tutor in Modern Languages, and 
the college's unofficial historian. The year 1912 saw a prospective 
novelist, Muriel Jaeger; a more celebrated future writer, Dorothy 
Leigh Sayers, was her exact contemporary. 

A remarkable first-year student of 1913 was Agnes Elizabeth 
Murray, Professor Gilbert Murray's brilliant and beautiful younger 
daughter, whose fierce love of life did not suggest her mournful 
fate of premature death, at twenty-eight, in a village of Auvergne. 

Five years earlier her father had become a member of Somerville 
College Council; he was to remain on it for forty-eight years. As a 
boy at the Merchant Taylors* School he had been greatly impressed 
by John Stuart Mill's essay The Subjection of Womcn^ and chose 
"Woman Suffrage" when invited to select a subject for a school 
composition. In 1909 he succeeded Professor Bywater in the chair so 
long occupied by Benjamin Jowett, and delivered his inaugural 
lecture to an immense audience. 

Of those Somerville students in the years immediately preceding 
the First War, Dorothy L. Sayers made the most lasting impression 


both on her contemporaries and on the outside world. A bouncing, 
affable, exuberant young woman, she had a vivid and somewhat 
crude taste in clothes, which at least could not have been described 
as "dowdy." Her thin, straight dark hair became an excuse for 
extravagant indoor headgear, which varied from shrill colours by 
day to gold or silver at night. 

In her memoirs of Somerville Miss Farnell recalls an early en- 
counter with Dorothy Savers, one college year her junior, who 

appeared at breakfast one morning, previous to an early lecture at the 
Taylorian, wearing a three-inch-wide scarlet riband round her head 
and in her ears a really remarkable pair of ear-rings: a scarlet and green 
parrot in a gilt cage pendant almost to each shoulder and visible right 
across the hail. Miss Penrose, shocked, but ever mindful of the rights 
and liberties of the individual student, was loth to abuse her authority 
by direct interference, but deputed to me, as a fellow student of D.L.S., 
the delicate task of effecting the removal of the offending bedizenment 
by gende persuasion. 

Miss Farnell records that a similar remonstrance with another 
"dressy" student produced the passionate cry "I won't, I won't, I 

Dorothy Sayers's father was the Headmaster of the Cathedral 
Choir School at Oxford; from this background she brought a passion 
for the Bach Choir which extended to its conductor Sir Hugh then 
Dr Allen. Students of this period who also joined the choir recall 
the wide, adoring eyes with which she gazed at him from her seat 
among the altos. A realistic sense of humour saved her from be- 
coming wholly ridiculous, and at the Going-down Play given by her 
Year the following summer she caricatured her idol with triumphant 
accuracy and zest. 

The Somervillians who remembered these musical adventures, 
and knew her also as the author of long, obscure, intellectual poems 
which occasionally appeared in university publications, were aston- 
ished when Dorothy Sayers became the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey 
and the author of world-famous detective stories renowned as "the 
kind that great minds use for relaxation." An episode related in the 
American Press at the time of her death ascribed her first book, 
Whose Body?, to an Oxford parlour game in which the players each 
add an incident to make a story. Dorothy Sayers added the naked 
corpse of an unknown person discovered in a bath-tub, and thus pro- 
vided herself with the plot for a mystery novel. 


For the writing of Gaudy Night a thriller based on a women's 
college and published in 1935 she spent long periods at Somerville. 
But two years later she gave up detective fiction altogether and 
returned, as she could now afford, to her real love the study of 
theology as manifested in the precise dogmas of Anglo-Catholicism. 
With her usual daring she plunged into a monumental verse transla- 
tion of Dante's Divina Commedia, which was not quite finished 
when she died. In 1937, at the request of the Bishop of Chichester, 
she wrote The Zeal of Thy House for the Canterbury Festival, and 
followed it with a cycle of radio plays, The Man Born to be King. 

Her husband, Captain Atherton Fleming, an invalid, died in 
1950. Nobody who knew her in her ebullient youth would have 
prophesied that she too would fail to reach the allotted span. 

Lady Margaret Hall did not produce a Dorothy Sayers though in 
terms of her ardent Anglo-Catholic sympathies it might have done 
but it adorned its pre-War years with a group of tutors as brilliant as 
the Somerville Senior Common Room of the eighteen-nineties. After 
Grace Hadow joined Eleanor Lodge as a member of the staff in 
1906, her teaching as English Tutor gave the college seven Firsts in 
English Language and Literature between 1908 and 1911. Evelyn 
Jamison, the learned historian with a 1901 First in Modern History, 
followed her as Bursar and Librarian from 1907 to 1921. She con- 
tinued as Tutor and Vice-Principal till 1937, and became a University 
Lecturer in History from 1928 to 1935. 

Another gifted historian, Ada Elizabeth Levett, Lady Margaret 
Hall's senior scholar in 1904, briefly joined its staff in 1908 before 
becoming History Tutor and later Vice-Principal at St Hilda's from 
1910 to 1923 under Miss Christine Burrows and Miss Winifred 
Moberly. She died suddenly and prematurely in 1932 while holding 
the Chair of History at London University. 

A drastic critic with strong opinions vehemently expressed, Pro- 
fessor Levett was a devout though reserved Churchwoman, and in 
her later years became a close friend of Dr Albert Mansbridge, of 
the Workers' Educational Association. On the first page of her best- 
known book, Europe since Napoleon (1913), she inscribed the words 
of Thomas Traherne: "The Kingdom of God is made visible to him 
to whom all Kingdoms are so many Mansions of Joy, and all Ages 
but the streets of his own City." 

Between 1910 and 1914 Lady Margaret Hall completed its list of 
tutors with K. H. McCutcheon, Winifred H. Moberly, Janet Spens, 

TOWARDS RDdd&isriTidN 125 

and Helena Clara Deneke. Miss McCutcheon, a Girton student with 
a First in both parts of the Classical Tripos, became Classical Tutor 
from 1910 to 1922, when she left to be Headmistress of St Leonard's 
School, St Andrews. Winifred Moberly acted as Bursar for two 
years, and Janet Spens became English Tutor for twenty-five. Helena 
Deneke, a St Hugh's student of 1900, was German Tutor from 
1913 to 1938, and published a biography of Grace Hadow in 1946. 

A change greater than any brought by these appointments was now 
impending at Lady Margaret Hall. At the end of the 1909 summer 
term Miss Wordsworth retired at the age of sixty-nine, and moved to 
a house in Rawlinson Road, where she spent her remaining twenty- 
three years. 

On March n, 1909, reporting her forthcoming departure, the 
Oxford Magazine commented: 

She has seen it [her college] grow from a sort of small family party 
to a well-organized women's college with sixty students. She has been 
herself an instance of what has been said of the Wordsworths in more 
than one generation "they all have a touch of genius." 

The college, like the world outside it, had in fact grown beyond 
her special methods of government. 

"I feel rather like a piece of blotting-paper that doesn't blot any 
more," she said sadly. "I can't take in all the students properly." 

Deeply admiring Miss Wordsworth as "a personality who pre- 
sented in herself the epitome of all that was noblest in Oxford," 
Winifred Peck wrote of her later: "It cannot have been easy for her 
generation to strike the balance between the old desire to protect girls 
from harm and the more modern demand for freedom." 

Lady Margaret Hall was not yet ready to turn from its clerical 
tradition and choose its new Principal from the growing ranks of the 
scholars already available. In Miss Wordsworth's place the college 
appointed Henrietta Jex-Blake, daughter of the Dean of Wells, who 
had formerly been Headmaster of both Cheltenham and Rugby. She 
had received no university education, but for ten years had been 
Headmistress of Polmont, a well-respected girls' school in Scotland. 
The Oxford Magazine welcomed her politely, feeling sure that she 
would be in sympathy with the development which women's educa- 
tion in Oxford "is making and is bound to make in the years to 


Miss Jex-Blake was born in 1863, retired somewhat early in 1921, 
and lived to be ninety. Philip de Laszlo's portrait of her, painted at 
the time of her retirement, shows a very handsome middle-aged 
woman with white hair. In a second portrait, also possessed by Lady 
Margaret Hall, she appears as a beautiful young girl of twenty-one. 

The college still had very little money. Miss Jex-Blake acted as her 
own secretary a job which Eleanor Lodge, now Vice-Principal, had 
taken over during Miss Wordsworth's final years. For a long period 
Miss Lodge also ran the Scholarship and Entrance examinations 
single-handed, and served on the Council of the Hall and the 
A.E.W., and later on the 1910 Delegacy for Women Students. In- 
creasing contacts with the university meant more work without the 
reinforcement of larger funds, while the pressure from would-be 
students was unremitting. 

Several outstanding young women coincided with the arrival of 
the new Principal. Among them was Eglantyne Mary Jebb, who fol- 
lowed her First in English by becoming Assistant English Tutor at 
Somerville from 1913 to 1919 and a lecturer at Birmingham Univer- 
sity from 1919 until 1931. She was then appointed Principal of the 
Froebel Educational Institute, acted as Vice-Chairman of the Save 
the Children Fund, and eventually became Principal of Bedford 

A future novelist, H. F. M. Prescott, followed her to Lady Mar- 
garet Hall in 1914. Miss Prescott won the James Tait Black Memorial 
Prize for Spanish Tudor in 1941, and brought further distinction to 
her college during the nineteen-fifties. 

In 1913 Lady Margaret Hall became a limited-liability company, 
not working for profit, under the Companies Act of 1908. All four 
colleges had now to face the financial problems involved by rapid 
growth with no endowments to meet the building projects which 
they were compelled to contemplate. In all of them was also growing 
a slow movement towards self-government which was not completely 
to fulfil itself until after the Second World War. 

At the beginning of the century, with the idea of creating sounder 
finances, Miss Beale had amalgamated St Hilda's Hall with St 
Hilda's College, Cheltenham, an institution financially independent 
of the Ladies' College, though its students went there for their edu- 
cation. The Oxford half of the amalgamation retained its own name, 
but the joint organization was known as St Hilda's Incorporated 
College. When Miss Beale died in 1906 her legacy of ^1000 was used 


to add a second south wing (in brick) to the Oxford Hall, with an 
oak-panelled library. 

Miss Christine Burrows, who had been History Tutor at St Hilda's 
since her own Final Schools in 1894, succeeded her mother as Prin- 
cipal in 1910. During the same year Professor Edward Armstrong, 
then History Tutor at Queen's College and later Provost, became 
Chairman of St Hilda's Council, and remained a member for thirty 

Describing her period as a young Principal long afterwards for 
the benefit of a visitor, Miss Burrows recalled the problems created 
for her by a student who persistently disregarded the chaperon rules 
of the period. Because this student influenced others, Miss Burrows 
faced the formidable duty of persuading her parents to take her 

This obligation illustrated the friendly co-operation which the still 
experimenting women often received from their male supporters. 
Professor Armstrong agreed to come to St Hilda's and sit in the 
next room during the interview, so that Miss Burrows could call 
upon him if any difficulty arose. His invisible presence gave her con- 
fidence, and she accomplished her task. 

Fortunately relatively few students caused difficulties of this kind. 
One of the most distinguished to study at St Hilda's, Doris Maude 
Odium, had come up in 1909. By the nineteen- thirties she was to be 
well known as a pioneer psychiatrist attached to a number of leading 
hospitals, such as the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases and 
the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. 

At Somerville, from the beginning of the century, all the buildings 
erected had symbolized the change of status from hall to college. The 
Library, finished in 1903 and opened by John Morley in 1904, had 
been built against the north boundary wall so that the large windows 
looked south over the garden. The oak shelving on the first floor 
held 26,000 books; in 1924 a gallery was to increase this accommoda- 
tion. A top floor of students' rooms, and a loggia outside the cloister 
linking the east and west halves of the college, completed the pattern. 

After Miss Maitland's death Miss Margery Fry initiated the plan 
for a hall in her memory large enough to hold the whole college, 
and the fund raised as her memorial was set aside to pay for the 
panelling. The foundations of this west-facing addition proved diffi- 
cult to establish owing to the discovery of deep pits filled with rubble. 
Subsequently De Gomme's plan of the fortifications of Oxford in 


1644 showed that the Cavaliers' outer lines of defence had crossed the 
Somerville site at this corner, where the pits had probably formed 
part of the entrenchments. 

The new building and the previous Jackson wing were now to be 
linked by an archway over a wide staircase leading to the hall, while a 
Maitland block to the south would house eighteen more students and 
two tutors. The total cost was ^17,000, even when brick had been 
substituted for stone. 

From 1910 to 1913 the President of the Somerville Council was 
Mr H. A. L. Fisher, later Minister of Education. He and Miss 
Penrose made as effective a combination as Miss Maitland and 
Professor Henry Pelham, with his vision and judgment, had formed 
in the previous decade. Together, selecting Edmund Fisher as archi- 
tect, they managed to get the new hall finished by 1913. 

Its simple classical outlines contrasted sharply with the Victorian 
architecture which had preceded it, but other modern structures 
were eventually to relegate the older buildings to their present 
modest place. The light panelled woodwork of the dining-hall, to-day 
darkened by time, was broken by lofty windows showing the tall 
trees on the lawn. The long tables could seat over 200 students. 

This hall now contains all the chief Somerville portraits, including 
the Principals and one or two eminent graduates, such as Eleanor 
Rathbone. The most unusual picture commemorates Mary Somer- 
ville herself, painted by J. Jackson, R.A.; inset like a large cameo in 
the panelling over the fireplace, it is surrounded by the ornately 
carved Somerville arms and motto. This painting shows a charming 
young girl with dark eyes, long, shapely nose and full mouth, her 
elaborately coiffured hair crowned by a black-feathered hat. The 
copper-coloured gown has a low neck set off by a white collar; its 
hue reflects the elaborate gilt frame. 

Over the first serving-hatch Emily Penrose presides, a tall, gaunt 
woman sitting austerely upright, her bony hands folded in her lap. 
Her grey hair is plainly dressed on the top of her head above gimlet- 
like blue eyes beneath almost invisible eyebrows. The high cheek- 
bones have a touch of colour; the mouth is wide and straight; the 
whole portrait suggests continual exposure to a bleak wind. Her 
gown is put on neatly over a white blouse; every garment is reso- 
lutely and correctly subfusc. 

This picture, painted by Mr Francis Helps three years before her 
retirement, suffered from constant interruptions to both sitter and 


artist. It displays the sternness of Miss Penrose while completely 
omitting the human qualities which her awkward shyness concealed. 
On October 4, 1913, Dr Heberden, twice President o the Somer- 
ville Council and later Vice-Chancellor, performed the opening 
ceremony. The hall was used for one Commemoration Dance the 
following summer before chaos arrived. 

While the four colleges were growing in size and status, some sig- 
nificant changes affected their relationship to the university. 

In May 1907 a new young Chancellor was installed at the Shel- 
donian. Lord Curzon, still in his forties, quickly realized the emo- 
tions behind the popular demand for reform, and was anxious to 
avert the appointment of another Royal Commission by persuading 
the university to reform itself. During the next two years he made 
contacts with heads of houses, professors, and tutors, and on Febru- 
ary 12, 1909, wrote to Professor Arthur Sidgwick, asking for a state- 
ment of the main reasons for giving women degrees. 

Professor Sidgwick and Annie Rogers composed the reply between 
them. Soon after it reached him Lord Curzon's historic Letter 
appeared on Principles and Methods of University Reform. Owing 
to the colour of its binding, this document was popularly known as 
"the Scarlet Letter." 

On April 29, 1909, the Oxford Magazine which had now begun 
to include the women's societies in its "College Notes" recorded 
that the Chancellor's Memorandum was at last before the Univer- 
sity, "and all whispering and remote conjecture may cease." The 
magazine summarized the Memorandum as the work of a states- 
man who had chastened the rhetorician, and an administrator gifted 
in collecting and sifting evidence. 

In considering the question of degrees for women, Lord Curzon 
commented that the university "may be said to yield the reality while 
withholding the name." He further argued the need of degrees for 
the status of women teaching outside Oxford, and emphasized that, 
by attracting the most gifted women and exercising some control 
over their institutions, the university would make this change in its 
own interests. Responding to his lead, the Hebdomadal Council 
passed a resolution on June 21, 1909, in favour of an early discussion 
on the admission of women to degrees. 

Lord Curzon's other proposals included the reform of Convoca- 
tion, now an elephantine body of 6700 members, and of Congregation, 


a fortuitous group of 500 persons with a qualification based on 
residence rather than academic status. He urged the provision of 
education for the unleisured in addition to the leisured classes 
hitherto dominant even among the small group of women students. 
At present compulsory Greek was a barrier to the workers, as it had 
been to women. 

"No Chancellor since the days of Laud/' wrote Sir Charles Mallet 
in his History of the University of Oxford, "had grappled so 
thoroughly with University problems." 

But Lord Curzon's advocacy of degrees for women did not include 
their admission to Convocation and Congregation; his proposal 
omitted all constitutional privileges, since he thought that such 
a demand had not the smallest chance of being conceded. He 
also opposed the extension of the franchise to women, strangely 
arguing that there was no basic connexion between votes and 

Ten years after "the Scarlet Letter" appeared women were voting 
in a Parliamentary election; a year later still, the membership of both 
Convocation and Congregation had been opened to them. 

The contrast between Lord Curzon's reactionary attitude to 
women in politics and his relatively liberal ideas regarding their edu- 
cation was one of the puzzling contradictions of his complex person- 
ality. He appears to have shared the peculiar mental dichotomy of 
Mrs Humphry Ward, who also believed in education without 
political rights. It was an odd aberration on the part of two 
highly intelligent persons, for education has always caused the 
newly educated to perceive what they lack and to advance their 
claims. 6 

On October 22, 1911, Lord Curzon opened the new central block 
of buildings at Lady Margaret Hall which includes their dining-hall 
and library, and was comparable in importance to the Maitiand 
buildings at Somerville. His appearance marked another milestone, 
for it was the first official visit by the head of the university to a 
women's college. 

There he referred to the future possibility of women's degrees, and 
defined the development of their education at Oxford as part of the 
widespread movement for women's emancipation. Mentioning the 

6 Many who have recorded Lord Curzon's move for reform at Oxford have 
speculated why, conservative and opposed to Woman Suffrage, he should have 
wished to include women within its scope. Could the explanation be that this 
enigmatic character had three remarkable daughters, and no son? 


recent statute creating a Delegacy for Women Students, he added, 
"The sound of Oxford must go out into all lands, and women as well 
as men must bear the message." 

These were indeed encouraging words from a statesman regarded 
as a confirmed anti-feminist. Though Oxford women as a whole had 
looked upon Lord Curzon's partial and conservative proposals with 
disfavour, Annie Rogers subsequently put his suggestions into 

"The admission of women to membership of the University was 
very largely due to Lord Curzon's action," she wrote. "He did not 
go very far, but he put the matter on a new footing and he carried 

The Delegacy for the Supervision of Women Students, established 
in 1910, had arisen from a suggestion made in February 1908 by 
Mr H. T. Gerrans, Secretary to the Oxford Delegacy for Local 
Examinations. After a printed book of sixteen questions had been 
submitted to college principals and other leading women, the statute 
establishing a Delegacy for Women passed its final vote in Congre- 
gation on June 2, 1910, and the Delegacy was appointed the follow- 
ing Michaelmas term. 

As usual, this new advance did not occur without opposition. On 
June 9, 1910, an article appeared in the Oxford Magazine, "By our 
Reactionary Friend," on the legislation which their contributor called 
"this egregious Statute." He went on disgustedly to comment: 

The 112 who formed the majority had come there to vote according 
to orders quite independently of all argument; their attitude was 
approximately that of the persons whose cause they were advocating 
a complete disregard of precedents created or to be created as long as 

they get their way This proposal sets a precedent which, if carried 

to its natural outcome, must deprive the University of proper control 

over its own business The last thing that is needed is to set up a 

body which can be dominated by a rabid minority of the University 
members backed up by the non-members, a state of things which is a 
possible, indeed a highly probable, contingency. 

The function of the Delegates was merely to take over the duties, 
hitherto imposed on the Delegacy of Local Examinations, of register- 
ing though not matriculating women students, now between 300 and 
400, and arranging for their admission to university examinations. 
Anything less "rabid" than these simple secretarial operations could 
hardly have been imagined; in fact, when the statute was first carried 


the public in the galleries of the Sheldonian Theatre greeted its 
passage "with some laughter.'* 

The statute gave to die Delegates, a majority of whom had to be 
men, very limited powers. Their symbolic importance was neverthe- 
less considerable, for they represented the first formal recognition of 
women by Oxford University. 

Though women students had now sat for university examinations 
for over twenty years, the Statutes continued unblushingly to publish 
the remarkable information that no one could be admitted to these 
examinations who was not a member of the university. Presumably 
the women donned a magic cloak of invisibility as soon as they 
entered the Examination Schools. 

Perhaps the chief significance of the new Delegacy was the change 
of opinion in fourteen years which it typified. Gone was the idea of 
a women's university which had hampered the degree discussions of 
1896. With the recognition of women the university automatically 
accepted a measure of control. 

When the new Delegacy met in the Michaelmas term of 1910 it 
represented a university body on which for the first time men and 
women acted together. The statute had provided for twenty-one 
delegates of whom nine should be women; these included three 
principals and two tutors. Annie Rogers served on both its commit- 
tees. They carried on their business in the basement of the Clarendon 
Building, with the A.E.W. still in occupation of the attics. 

Unquestionably, through its quiet contacts with the university, the 
Delegacy for Women indirectly furthered the coming of degrees. 
On November 12, 1910, a writer to The Times, stressing that the 
new Delegacy had meant a great advance, added: "Oxford has 
recognized that she has daughters, and some day she will give to 
them, as to her sons, the right to bear her name and wear her gown." 

Now that all five women's societies had achieved recognition, the 
Home Students 50 in 1900 but 164 in 1912 came direcdy under the 
Delegacy for Women instead of under the A.E.W. This rapid 
increase was partly due to the popularity of two new diplomas 
Geography, which many Home Students took, and the Diploma in 
Economics and Political Science. In 1917 the Oxford Social and 
Political Studies Association also issued a Certificate in Social Train- 
ing. The work of this Association, which was dissolved that year, 
subsequently came under Barnett House. 


In 1900 the Home Students had included Violet Dodgson, a rela- 
tive of Lewis Carroll, to whom admirers of Alice in Wonderland 
presented an exhibition of .25 a year for two years. To the Home 
Students were added in 1907 the Roman Catholic nuns from the 
newly formed Convent of the Holy Child Jesus established at Cher- 
well Edge, which had belonged to the historian J. A. Froude. Most 
of these nuns went from Oxford to teach in the training colleges or 
schools of their Order at home and abroad, but a Reverend Mother 
from Cherwell Edge took the Chancellor's Prize for English in 1933. 

At first Mrs Johnson resisted the authority of the Delegacy: the 
A.E.W. was her super-child, which made her obstructive to new 
forms of progress, and she was still unable to see that by this time the 
five women's societies were unquestionably independent academic 
bodies. In her heart she preferred women to be subsidiary, though 
educated 'womanly women ' of the Victorian type. 

Annie Rogers, as usual, took a totally different view, arguing that 
university recognition was worth any modification required. With 
the idea of making the new machinery a permanent contribution to 
the equality of Oxford men and women which she believed would 
come, she consulted Professor W. M. Geldart, the Vinerian Professor 
of English Law. Like Professors Pelham and Sidgwick, he was one 
of the best friends that Oxford women ever had, and in 1908 had 
become a Trustee of the A.E.W. 

Eventually Mrs Johnson was persuaded to co-operate, and her 
society was recognized as "not constituted" by the university but 
already existing. When a Decree of Convocation reappointed her as 
its Principal she became, somewhat ironically, the first woman to be 
elected by the university to an office. 

No equivalent of the Delegacy for Women, which brought Oxford 
men and women into contact with each other in the normal course 
of their joint business, ever existed at Cambridge. The effect of the 
1897 defeat of the Cambridge women became clearer at a London 
Conference of Universities in July 1912. To this conference the 
Oxford Delegacy for Women sent a careful memorandum on their 
new position, but Cambridge remained virtually silent, and Mrs 
Henry Sidgwick, the chief representative of the Cambridge women, 
was clearly reluctant to give information. 

Hitherto Oxford women had been a little overwhelmed by the 
early ascendancy of their Cambridge counterparts, who had not 
given them much encouragement, but there was no longer any 


reason for a sense of inferiority. From 1910 onward the award of 
scholarships at the Oxford women's colleges even began to appear 
in the University Gazette beneath the heading "Unofficial Notices." 

In an article in The Standard Annie Rogers emphasized the 
increasing share of women in Oxford life. With well-justified opti- 
mism she concluded: " There is a great sense of equality and com- 
radeship, and when the time comes for further advances the path 
will have been smoothed by the friendly intercourse of many years." 

Only a year later the degree question was reopened by an initiative 
which this time eventually brought success. 

In 1913-145 the Junior Proctor was a distinguished young don from 
St John's College, Mr J. L. Stocks. He was a good friend to women 
and the husband of a brilliant wife, Mary D. Stocks, who was herself 
a tutor in the university. Later Mrs Stocks became Principal of West- 
field College, London, and the biographer of Eleanor Rathbone. 

During the Michaelmas term of 1913, in the middle of his year of 
office, Mr Stocks moved for a committee of the Hebdomadal Council 
to carry out the resolution of June 21, 1909, which had favoured 
"early" discussion of women's degrees after Lord Curzon's Letter. 
He and other supporters of the move, including the Principals and 
tutors of the women's colleges, agreed that actual membership of the 
university should be asked for but not the academic vote /.<?,, for 
the University Member of Parliament, an office later abolished 
and that no attempt should be made to retain the special 'privilege' 
of the non-degree course. 

Mr Stocks secured a friendly Committee which accepted the prin- 
ciple of Matriculation for women, and its finally agreed proposals 
were a considerable advance on the much-debated suggestions of 
189596. They * created' the woman undergraduate who, like the 
man, would be obliged to matriculate within a fortnight of admission 
to the university, and in return would be admitted to university lec- 
tures and laboratories, and would be eligible for degrees in Aits, 
Music, Science, and Letters, and for any scholarships and prizes that 
the university could grant. When the formal discussion of these sug- 
gestions began in May 1914 they had only two declared opponents. 

The Senior Proctor, Mr A. J. Jenkinson, subsequently foresaw a 
great increase of social contacts between men and women if degrees 
for women were granted, and the college principals agreed that the 
Vice-Chancellor and Proctors should have power to make and en- 
force regulations involving the discipline of matriculated women. 


The Committee was then instructed to draft a statute, and send it to 
the Delegacy for Women to be further considered. 

In spite of these promising developments } the attitude of some 
undergraduates to the women students recalled the reasons why 
chaperonage had so long survived its necessity. Still treasured in the 
library of a women's organization is a letter from Mrs Johnson to 
her Senior Home Student regarding a complaint by some of the male 
examinees, who protested that they were disturbed by displays of 
feminine limbs while taking Schools. Dated June 14, 1914, the letter 


We have had a very tiresome complaint that the men examinees are 
disturbed by the way our students sit in their tight skirts and show 
their legs. We do not know who are at fault, but we are bound to 
warn all. 

Yours ever, 

The men were soon to have something else to think about. Exactly 
two weeks later came the assassination at Sarajevo which changed 
the world for members of the university as for everybody else. 

Chapter y: Through War to Triumph 


more drastically than the previous six centuries of change. 

At first the external evidences of war appeared the more obvious. 
The majority of men had already gone from the colleges; by 1915 
their numbers had fallen from three thousand to one thousand. At 
the end of 1917 only 350 remained, of whom 25 were foreign refugees, 
30 medical students, and 50 students from the East who could not be 
called upon for service. 

By the close of 1916 Christ Church and New College had each 
approximately a thousand members serving in the Forces. New 
College headed the casualty list with 130 of its men already killed. 
Three of Balliol's nearly 700 volunteers had won the V.C. 

During the first autumn, companies of soldiers, young cadets, and 
subalterns in training occupied the colleges and lodgings of the 
vanished undergraduates; khaki, "Kitchener's Blue," and airmen's 
uniforms replaced the former caps and gowns. The Town Hall and 
the Examination Schools were transformed into hospitals; the inces- 
sant sound of bugles competed with Oxford's bells; Belgians, French, 
and Serbians swelled the city's population; the Parks had been turned 
over to drill. Few dons under fifty were left in Oxford; from the 
remnant, distinguished elderly professors paraded with "Godley's 
Veterans" on the cricket ground. 

Amid all these feverish activities the anxiety and desolation at the 
heart of the university gradually made itself felt. One woman student, 
interpreting this mood, wrote a poem called The Unseen Under- 

They'll steal across the darkened quads to-night, 
And clasp each other by the hand, and use 
The old endearing names, and talk of days 
Before the stormy time, when battle's blaze 
Called them to leave the haunts of golden years, 
And idly dreaming Muse. 


Everywhere their invisible presence was inescapable. As the Roll 
of Honour lengthened, their ghosts seemed to linger in the colleges 
where they had looked forward to the future, confidently and gaily, 
only a few months ago. Most pathetic of all, perhaps, was the genera- 
tion of boys who had left school in July 1914, and had been about to 
come up to college. Occasionally they appeared in the city for a few 
weeks as cadets, but a large proportion of them died before the War 
ended without enjoying even one term of Oxford life. 

Youth alone, it seemed, had the task of trying to save civilization 
from the catastrophe which had befallen it. Age and responsibility, 
far from enjoying the respect once regarded as their due, now de- 
veloped, in the persons of senior dons, a sense of inferiority and 
dismay. Ruth Butler quoted an Oxford writer who commented: 
"Oxford and Cambridge had a gift to offer which struck the on- 
looker as richer than most, more brilliant, more pathetic, more 
inevitably suggesting the idea, by all worldly standards, of incalcu- 
lable and heroic waste." 

Some to whom this wastage appeared as the most tragic aspect of 
those apocalyptic days felt unable to accept the attempts made by 
Oxford dons and clerics to justify the War and represent it as a holy 
crusade. Among the books and pamphlets which cascaded from the 
Clarendon Press, even Professor Gilbert Murray's topical booklet 
How can War ever be Right? did not seem to go far enough when it 
stopped short at war's rejection. 

From the outbreak of catastrophe three categories of Oxford 
women gradually revealed themselves. 

First, and most fortunate, were those who had finished their 
university courses, and could go straight into the various responsible 
posts Government administration, welfare or clerical work, the 
organization of hospital units and later of Queen Mary's Army 
Auxiliary Corps, the Women's Royal Naval Service, and the 
Women's Land Army which were being increasingly offered to 
college graduates. 

A second and much smaller class of women included students, and 
occasionally dons, who found safety intolerable while their unful- 
filled male contemporaries were dying. In ones and twos these left 
their work at Oxford temporarily or permanently unfinished, and 
went off to serve at home or overseas. Some foreign students in this 
category worked for their own wounded; one Home Student, Ina 
Chagia, was killed by a bomb in Russia; another ruled in majestic 


isolation over 350 Serbs in the mountain village of Bocognano, in 

In the third category came the majority, most valuable to a uni- 
versity deprived of its men, who remained to finish their courses 
and fit such 'war work' as they could into their reading for 

"The women," wrote Ruth Butler frankly, "were immediately 
useful in helping to keep the machinery going." 

These students became the victims of competing injunctions; 
national posters urged them to serve their "King and Country," 
while the university authorities (lest Othello's occupation should 
indeed be gone) anxiously insisted that it was their duty to remain, 
and prepare for future demands. Mr H. A. L. Fisher and Professor 
Gilbert Murray alike stressed the importance for women of training 
themselves as teachers. 

"Oxford," proclaimed Professor Murray, "has always stood for the 
spiritual side of education. Cling to that! We cannot raise the world 
without it." 

But the tension from which this useful nucleus suffered was almost 
intolerable. Casualty lists, 'last leaves,' and letters from the Front all 
added to a strain little mitigated by the community hymn-singings in 
the Sheldonian, organized to revive the much-battered spirits of 
remaining students. More appropriate seemed the boom from Christ 
Church of "Great Tom" (hushed at night lest the sound should 
guide would-be aerial raiders) which was used each noon as a sum- 
mons to prayer. 

Unluckiest among these women were the young students who 
never knew Oxford except in war-time. No gaiety or stimulus 
relieved the austerity of this unfamiliar life. Gone was most of the 
once-valued privacy; in some colleges a shortage of coal compelled 
work to be done in public rooms or over small shared fires. The lack 
of domestic helpers also laid on women students in vacation a heavy 
burden of household tasks which hampered reading. 

At the end of that first year of war the incongruously beautiful 
spring and summer of 1915 brought new grief rather than comfort. 
The scent of lilac and wallflowers in Oxford gardens from Carfax 
to Summertown added poignancy to the sacrifice of young men at 
Ypres and Neuve Chapelle. 

Amid these sorrowful preoccupations the death of Somerville's 
first Principal, Madeleine Shaw Lefevre, had passed almost un- 


noticed, though the Oxford Magazine in its first issue for the 1914 
Michaelmas term wrote of her with respect as 

one who did so much to train and foster the shoot which has since 
grown into such a stately tree. A most perfect gentlewoman . . . she 
was the very antipodes of the clumsy masculine blue-stocking who 
was the favourite bug-bear of the opponents of women's education. 

Miss Shaw Lefevre had never been obliged to confront a problem 
remotely corresponding to the one which faced her successor the fol- 
lowing spring. In April 1915 Somerville College, so conveniently 
adjacent to the Radcliffe Infirmary, was commandeered by the War 
Office for conversion into a military hospital, which it remained for 
four years. Since Oxford was now so largely depleted of under- 
graduates, the university offered the St Mary Hall quadrangle of 
Oriel College to Somerville for the duration of the War. 

The move was swifdy and efficiently accomplished during the 
spring vacation, and the students who came up for the summer term 
found themselves distributed between St Mary Hall and various 
ex-masculine lodgings. The majority dined in a small, dark, oak- 
panelled seventeenth-century room, where the windows had never 
previously been made to open, and discreetly took their baths in the 
basement of the Rhodes Block facing the High Street, which served 
as a refuge during the occasional Zeppelin raids. 

Near the steps up to the dining-hall some new-looking bricks 
marked the spot where the communicating passage between Oriel 
and St Mary Hall had been walled up by order of the Provost in his 
concern to guard against "any of your Pyramus and Thisbe busi- 
ness." These precautions proved insufficient to intimidate a few 
bolder spirits. 

One night the bricks were surreptitiously removed, and until they 
could be replaced Miss Penrose guarded her side o the gap and the 
Provost his. After the War several apocryphal legends of this incident 
survived to entertain the returning undergraduates. 

When its buildings were at last restored to Somerville in March 
1919, the squalor which descends upon all habitations occupied for 
several years by military units meant a long process of cleaning and 
redecoration. According to Miss Farnell, this obligation offered a 
heaven-sent opportunity for the disposal of those superfluous prints 
and statuettes which all colleges accumulate; "excellent fuel they 
made for the flames of a memorable bonfire." 


In spite of its exceptional problems, the college managed to keep 
a record of war-work by Somervillians which, being almost unique, 
ultimately found a place in the Imperial War Museum as a represen- 
tative sample of the part played by women between 1914 and 1918. 

From the middle of 1915 Emily Penrose had many more important 
matters to consider than the transfer of excited students to mascu- 
line premises, or even their protection against unofficial marauders. 
A variety of war-time responsibilities descended upon her for which 
she was later awarded the O.B.E. These included the organization of 
National Registration in Oxford and the management of the Belgian 
Visitors' Committee. In 1916 she was appointed a member of the 
Royal Commission on University Education in Wales, while re- 
maining upon the Advisory Committee on University Grants, which 
she had joined in 1911. The Royal Commission on the Universities of 
Oxford and Cambridge finally claimed her, the only woman serving, 
in 1919. 

Between these official occupations she found time, in preparation 
for the eventual coming of degrees, to draw up with Annie Rogers 
a Report for the AJE.W. Council on the disciplinary rules in force 
for women students at the universities of Great Britain and Ireland. 
Most difficult of all, perhaps, in its demand on psychological resources 
was the task which she assumed of holding the balance between the 
claims of the War and those of university life. It meant the attain- 
ment of a perspective which saw how the different forms of war 
service undertaken by the tiny minority of intelligent, independent 
women which Oxford had contributed could be used to benefit their 
post-war status in the university. 

Some well-known Oxford figures had now grown too old for such 
strenuous responsibilities. In 1915 Miss Moberly resigned the Princi- 
palship of St Hugh's, and retired to work on her Five Visions of the 
Revelation at a small house in Norham Road. Eleanor Jourdain, who 
had been her Vice-Principal since their joint 'Adventure/ took her 
place at the college. 

Already Miss Moberly 's dream of fine collegiate buildings for St 
Hugh's was in sight of accomplishment. In 1911 St Hugh's Hall had 
become incorporated as St Hugh's College, and shortly afterwards 
benefited substantially under the will of Miss Clara Evelyn Mordan, 
a handsome, wealthy woman who had never married. 

Miss Mordan was an enthusiast for Woman Suffrage who had 


been largely responsible for the original funds of the Women's Social 
and Political Union, and had financed the first Suffragette procession 
in London. In spite of her elegant and somewhat conventional beauty, 
she was clearly a 'character.' 

At the meeting of a feminist society in London in 1896 she heard 
Annie Rogers read a paper on "The Present Position of Women at 
Oxford/' and from that time onward became interested in the 
Oxford women's colleges. 

In 1901 she visited them with her friend Mary Gray Allen, and 
subsequently wrote Miss Moberly that St Hugh's was obviously the 
college most in need of help. She enclosed a cheque for ^1000 to 
found a scholarship bearing her name on condition that no student 
should practise vivisection while holding it & condition which the 
Council did not find unduly onerous. 

From that time she became a personal friend of Miss Moberly, 
annually visiting St Hugh's to investigate its finances and inspect the 
Council's plans for buildings and gardens. 

Miss Mordan died in 1915, during the very week that St Hugh's 
Building Committee met. Her bequest of ,11,000 assured the Coun- 
cil that in spite of the War its building plans could continue, and 
made possible the purchase of a site at the corner of Banbury and 
St Margaret's Roads, and the erection, with Mr H. T. Buckland as 
architect, of a new house standing in a large garden. The favourable 
terms offered by the contractors enabled the work to be completed 
during the War, and the building was opened on Ascension Day 
1916. As it had cost nearly ^30,000, the college was still in debt, and 
owing to this financial pressure St Hugh's under Miss Jourdain was 
obliged to expand beyond its housing capacity. 

Lady Margaret Hall was also involved in the same perpetual race 
between would-be students and physical accommodation. In spite of 
the War, a new wing had been added to the central block in 1915 
and named after Mrs Arnold Toynbee, the Hall's treasurer. 

At several colleges a number of dons, unable to tolerate a life of 
routine security, did varied and sometimes quite perilous forms of 
war work. 

Eleanor Lodge, after giving considerable time to befriending 
Belgian refugees, spent a term towards the end of the War at 
Dormans-sur-Marne doing canteen work. Here she was caught by 
the great spring-time retreat of 1918, and only escaped from Dormans 
on the day that die Germans destroyed it. Mildred Pope also worked 


for a time behind the lines in France with the Friends' Relief Mis- 
sion, organized by Somerville's future Principal, Margery Fry, as a 
member of the Friends' War Victims Relief Committee. 

Hilda Lockhart Lorimer was already restless by the summer term 
of 1915. During her coachings for "Pass Mods." she faced the 
realities of the War in terms of the Siege of Troy, and from Plato's 
account of the trial and death of Socrates sought to impart to her 
students the strength to conquer grief. In 1917 she thankfully escaped 
from Oxford to become an orderly at one of the Scottish Women's 
Hospitals in Salonika. There she remained for several months, fight- 
ing summer heat and disease with habitual gallantry, and was present 
during the great fire which destroyed half the town. 

Winifred Moberly, who was to become Principal of St Hilda's in 
1919, began her war work by organizing schemes to train un- 
employed women on behalf of the Central Committee on Women's 
Employment. Later she became, for two years, the Adminstrator of 
the Scottish Women's Hospitals in Russia under the National Union 
of Women's Suffrage Societies. 

In the final years of the War Grace Hadow resigned her lecture- 
ship at Lady Margaret Hall to become full-time Sub-Section Director 
in the Extra-Mural Department of the Ministry of Munitions. Also 
in this Ministry was Miss C. V. Butler, the sister of Ruth Butler 
and a member of the Barnett House Committee. 

Two non-faculty members of Somerville College did war-work of 
special distinction. Eleanor Rathbone, as a member of the Liverpool 
City Council, organized relief and assistance through the Soldiers' 
and Sailors' Families Association, and Winifred Haythorne, senior 
student of the college in 191415, became Deputy Chief Controller of 
the Q.M.A.A.C. in France and won a military O.B.E. 

Not all college tutors felt themselves summoned to these varieties 
of adventure, for many sincerely believed that their best contribution 
lay in a life of scholarship and university teaching. 

At Lady Margaret Hall Miss Jamison remained as Librarian and 
Miss K. H. McCutcheon as Classical Tutor throughout the War. 
Helena Clara Deneke stayed on as German Tutor and Bursar from 
1913 to 1918, while at St Hilda's Ada Elizabeth Levett loyally con- 
tinued to serve under Miss Burrows. 

Similarly at Somerville Miss Bruce, Miss Darbishire, and Miss 
Farnell remained on duty during the War years, to be joined at their 
close by a talented young History Scholar from Lady Margaret Hall, 


Maude Violet Clarke, who had been one of Miss Lodge's most dis- 
tinguished students. 

Maude Clarke's short life was destined to end in 1935, a year 
before her tutor's. In 1919, at the early age of twenty-seven, she had 
to function as a don while several mature students who had served in 
the War were coming back to college, old in experience, impatient 
with scholastic seclusion, and only two or three years younger than 

When tutor and student are too near in age a happy relationship is 
not easily achieved. Maude Clarke illustrated the difficulties which 
faced the younger tutors in that stormy time of readjustment. She 
typified also the growing co-operation between Somerville and Lady 
Margaret Hall, and, indeed, between all five women's societies, 
which had replaced the old rivalry. It began when Miss Jamison was 
appointed the first Mary Somerville Research Fellow in 1903, and 
continued after Grace Hadow had moved from Somerville to become, 
in 1906 after a year at Bryn Mawr, the English Tutor at Lady 
Margaret Hall. 

The deepening maturity and widening horizons of the women's 
colleges were enhanced by the tragedies and anxieties of the War; 
women's education had become a common cause, with infinite possi- 
bilities of development which the post- War period was likely to see. 
This co-operation, and the adult outlook that it implied, probably 
contributed as much as any other factor to the attainment of degrees 
for women. 

Among the new students at the various colleges 'personalities* 
and 'lions' stood out less than usual in those years of grief and pre- 
occupation, when all minds were turned outward from college and 
university to the overwhelming events across the English Channel. 
But the War period saw some memorable young women who were 
to make their names in a variety of professions. 

In 1916 a Lady Margaret Hall first-year was Lettice Ulpha Cooper, 
later to be well known as a novelist. The following year put the 
name of Evelyn Violet Elizabeth Rodd on the register of the same 
college. The daughter of Lord Rennell of Rodd, she was better 
known later as the Hon. Mrs T. A. Emmet, who represented Britain 
as Full Delegate at the United Nations in 1952 and 1953, and became 
Conservative M.P. for the East Grinstead Division of East Sussex in 


Somerville's war-time students included Violet Margaret Living- 
stone Hodgson, a South African who studied History at Oxford from 
1914 to 1917 and subsequently became famous in Cape Town as Mrs 
Margaret Ballinger, M.P. In 1915 came Margaret Kennedy, who 
published The Constant Nymph in 1924 and soon afterwards married 
a future judge. Thirty years later she enhanced the fame of this 
early book by receiving the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 
Troy Chimneys, published in 1954. 

During 1916 and 1917 a number of literary characters followed one 
another in quick succession. Among them were Viola Garvin, a 
daughter of J. L. Garvin and later Literary Editor of The Observer, 
and Margaret Hobling, destined to become Editor of The Friends' 
Quarterly Review. Doreen Wallace, subsequently a popular and 
successful novelist, belonged to the same college generation, and in 
1917 came Winifred Holtby, ultimately famous for her posthumous 
book, South Riding. In 1918 she went down to serve in Queen 
Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, but returned after the War. During 
its final year came Evelyn Irons, later to be Home Page Editor of 
the Evening Standard. 

Not one of these eventually distinguished women obtained First- 
class Honours except for Margaret Hobling, who followed a Second 
in "Honour Mods." with a First in "Greats," but Winifred Holtby 
contributed to Oxford history with her long and lively viva voce. 
For a week her perturbed examiners, uncertain which class to give 
her, carried round her brilliant, untidy papers, written in an inky, 
sprawling hand and abundantly peppered with fantastic spelling 

"Of course she is quite illiterate," one of them afterwards reported 
to a mutual friend, "but I do not think that this affected the verdict 
of the examiners.*' 

In the end they "viva-ed* her for a First for forty-five minutes. This 
ordeal proved to be her undoing, since her natural exuberance 
tempted her to give over-vivacious replies to the more solemn 
examiners, such as their chairman, Professor H. W. C. Davis. She 
maintained afterwards that she lost her First by a facetious reference 
to the private life of Henry VIII. 

The Firsts of this period came not from these embryonic writers, 
but from a group of future dons who chanced to be mainly Somer- 
villians. In 1915 arrived Evelyn E. S. Proctor, a future Principal of 
St Hugh's, and the following year saw Enid Mary Starkie, whose 


foreign degrees and awards were to reach remarkable levels of dis- 
tinction before she became Somerville's Fellow and Tutor in Modern 
Languages, and University Lecturer in French Literature in 1934. 
Immediately after the War came Mary Helen Macaulay, to be the 
first Principal, as Lady Ogilvie, of St Anne's College, and Janet 
Maria Vaughan, later the sixth Principal of Somerville and a future 

At St Hugh's Dr Joan Evans, later Director of the Society of 
Antiquaries and by 1959 the author of some thirty works on arche- 
ology and literature, came up in 1914. In 1916 she took a Diploma 
with Distinction, followed by a BJLitt. in 1920, and from 1917 to 
1922 acted as college librarian. Another war- time student at the same 
college was Margery Perham, who obtained a First in Modern His- 
tory in 1917, and was afterwards well known for her studies and 
writings on colonial problems. After many years of travel and 
teaching she became an Official Fellow of Nuffield College in 1939, 
and its Fellow in Imperial Government from 1947. 

One of the best-known students under Miss Burrows at St Hilda's 
was Cecil Woodham-Smith, the biographer of Florence Nightingale 
and author of The Reason Why, who came up in 1914 as Cecil 
Blanche Fitzgerald from the Royal School for Officers' Daughters in 
Bath. Another writer, Daisy Lucie Adler (later Mrs J. B. Hobman), 
the biographer of Olive Schreiner, entered the college in the follow- 
ing year. Her contemporary, Kathleen Gibberd, a Trade Union 
organizer from 1919 to 1921, subsequently served on the staff of 
Chatham House, and became Educational Correspondent for the 
Sunday Times. 

Among the Home Students a celebrated future novelist, Naomi 
Mitchison (then Naomi Haldane), author of The Corn King and 
the Spring Queen, was at Oxford during the War. Other Home 
Students of this period included Hilda Matheson, later a pioneer 
member of the staff of the B.B.C.; Winifred Margaret Gibson, who 
went down in 1918 to work for forty years in the Oxford University 
Registry and towards the end of her service to edit the University 
Gazette 1 ; and Helen Simpson (Mrs Denis Browne), who came up in 
1915 to read Music at Cherwell Edge, but went down the following 
year with a Pass degree in French. Between 1925 and her premature 

1 Of this assignment the writer of her 1958 obituary in The Ship (the Year Book 
of St Anne's College Association of Senior Members) comments that it would 
have been **a thing incredible had it been foretold in 1918." 


death In 1940 she became well known as a novelist, and won the 
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Boomerang, written in 1932. 

While these young women were preparing in the midst of catas- 
trophe for their future careers, the echoes of historic changes soon to 
arf ect the university began to come from Westminster. 

In 1916 even Mr Asquith, converted by women's war-time achieve- 
ments, abandoned his resistance to Woman Suffrage, and after the 
fall of the Asquith Government Mr Lloyd George agreed that votes 
for women should be included in the coming Franchise Bill. When 
the Woman Suffrage clause was debated on June 19, 1917, the House 
of Commons carried it by an overwhelming majority. On February 
6, 1918, in the depths of war-time depression, the first instalment of 
Woman Suffrage became part of the British Constitution. The Suf- 
frage societies had accepted the illogical suggestion of votes for 
women over thirty lest the bogy of 'preponderant' women voters 
should again disfranchise women altogether. Grace Hadow wrote in 

We shan't know ourselves in any role other than a derided minority. 
It feels quite odd to think that possibly even probably before long 
people will neither shout with laughter nor throw things at one if one 
mentions women voting. I am glad to belong to a generation which 
has been stoned. 

Her biographer, Helena Deneke, records that Miss Hadow had 
opposed militancy, but later admitted that it had advanced the 
Suffrage cause. 

In spite of the discreet sympathy for Suffrage of most women dons 
and the more open support of interested students, the fanaticism of a 
few e anuV caused an agitation at Somerville, and a professor's wife 
was noisily heckled at a public meeting in St Giles's. But the Oxford 
Union had invited Mrs (later Dame) Millicent Fawcett to speak in 
support of the vote as early as 1908 and gave her a rousing welcome, 
and the Suffrage motion was lost only by 31 votes in a total of 689. 3 

By 1918 Oxford women over thirty were entitled, ironically 
enough, to vote for the Parliamentary representative of a university 
In which they were still outsiders. 

2 In her book What I Remember Mrs Fawcett emphasizes the generosity of this 
invitation (at that date a remarkable instance of pioneering by the Union) to one 
who was neither a resident, a graduate, nor an undergraduate, and was a member 
of the wrong sex. 


Life at Oxford had now become grim and dreary. The older dons 
had aged visibly: the students worked doggedly with the sole pur- 
pose of getting away as soon as possible. At this moment of extreme 
dejection the world- wide influenza epidemic, which claimed more 
victims than the total casualties of the battlefields, smote the women's 
colleges with the rest of Oxford. 

Doctors worked to the point of exhaustion and beyond; civilian 
nurses were virtually non-existent. Volunteers able to remain on their 
feet went round the poorer parts of the city, improvising as best they 
could. In her book Terms and Vacations Eleanor Lodge compares 
their experiences to those of the Great Plague. Sometimes these 
helpers found a whole family in bed, unable to do anything for 
themselves, even if one or more members of the household were 
already dead. 

Of the women's colleges Lady Margaret Hall perhaps suffered the 
most severely, though all four were drastically smitten. At Lady 
Margaret Hall one student died; the sick overwhelmed the small 
sanatorium, and had finally to be cared for in the Hall itself. Miss 
Jex-Blake, a skilful nurse, supervised the nursing and herself took 
charge of many students. 

In the Old Hall Eleanor Lodge and the English Tutor, Janet 
Spens, nursed the invalids unaided. Finally, with all the domestic 
staff and twenty-eight students in bed at the same time, Miss Spens 
succumbed. In this particular building only Miss Lodge and four 
students escaped the disease. 

Far away in America Rose Sidgwick was a victim too; influenza 
and pneumonia caused her death when she was about to embark for 
England with the other members of the British Universities Mission. 
At Oxford her fellow-tutors, though they had greatly missed their 
male colleagues, hardly noticed the forty disabled soldiers who by 
October 1918 were back in residence, harbingers of the coming end. 

"Great Tom" boomed forth the news of peace when the epidemic 
was still at its height; then all the bells of Oxford's churches broke 
into sound like the combined symbols of tension released. Though 
the dead from New College totalled 257 and from Christ Church 225 
and the youth of Oxford were still mostly overseas, some celebrants 
of the unbelievable Armistice recovered enough of their pre-War 
spirit to cover with red paint the ancient heads of the "Caesars'* 
round the Sheldonian Theatre. 

Almost immediately Oxford became abnormally normal. This 


first post- War period known to a generation over-battered by events 
seemed constructive and hopeful, with its confident belief in the 
power of the new League of Nations to organize world peace. 
Oxford, like everywhere else, had its outbreak of dancing a phe- 
nomenon not to be repeated in 1945, when 'peace' was dominated by 

Freshmen just down from school mingled with toughened veterans 
still in khaki. Some of these attended lectures on crutches; the 
wounded and the fit alike delighted in the female society which 
Oxford offered now that so many former restrictions had been 
abolished. A very few Service women came back with the men; 
they were allowed special privileges for war work, and although 
technically 'overstanding/ were nevertheless allowed to proceed to 

The sudden avalanche of students made places at lectures difficult 
to obtain. All the History lectures especially were crowded; a desire 
to understand the events through which so much of the world's youth 
had passed led to a great run on History and extreme pressure on 
those who taught it. Soon after the War 400 candidates took the 
Final Schools in this subject, and 500 in 1921. 

The bright weather of the first post- War summer again drew the 
scent from wallflowers and may, no longer poignant and incon- 
gruous except for those whose memories remained too acute for 
enjoyment yet to be possible. Eights were revived that term, and 
even garden parties began again. All the hospitals had now closed, 
though the undergraduates taking the earliest post- War Schools went 
into their examinations over a doormat still inscribed with the 
words "Third Southern General Hospital." 

From the moment that the Armistice was signed overwhelming 
demands for accommodation fell upon all the women's societies, 
but especially on the Home Students, whose regulations were the 
most elastic. Their numbers sprang from 88 in the summer of 1919 
to 167 the following Michaelmas term a symptom of progress 
warmly welcomed by Mrs Johnson, now aged seventy-three. With- 
out secretarial help she dealt undauntedly with the rush of applica- 
tions throughout the Long Vacation. 

Behind the sombre drama of national events the "Women's 
Statute" had been slowly progressing towards the crucial moment 
now little more than a year ahead. 


At first the War had seemed likely to check the movement for 
degrees. The drafted statute sent to the Delegates for Women in 
the Hilary term of 1915 could then go no farther, since * contentious* 
matters might not be brought before the university in war-time. 

But ultimately the pause for thought and discussion proved bene- 
ficial. By the time that the subject could be taken up again, Woman 
Suffrage was nearing the Statute Book at Westminster, and women, 
in hundreds of posts once exclusively filled by men, had shown their 
capacity for responsible work. 

Included in this work was medicine. The War, with its demands 
on the care of the wounded and sick, had inspired a general desire 
to help would-be medical women, and in the Hilary term of 1917 the 
Board of the Oxford Faculty of Medicine passed a resolution recom- 
mending that the first examination for die degree of Bachelor of 
Medicine should be opened to women. The statute allowing them to 
sit for this examination passed without opposition the following 
term, but precipitated a series of complications which even at that 
crucial stage of the War recalled some of the more ludicrous obstacles 
placed in the way of degrees for women during earlier controversies. 

The Professor of Human Anatomy, Dr A. Thomson, refused to 
teach this subject to women unless the men and women students 
worked in separate rooms. (At that period young girls fresh from 
school were performing every type of intimate service for the 
wounded from the Front, and both men and women were operating 
on them.) The Clothworkers' Company finally solved the problem 
by providing a new women's laboratory much lighter and more 
modern than the men's at the University Museum, where Alice 
Chance, M.B., became the first woman demonstrator. 

In the midst of this odd controversy, on June 25, 1917, the Heb- 
domadal Council gave its provisional approval to the "Women's 
Statute," though as yet no final step could be taken. Nearly eighteen 
months later another statute opened to women the examination for 
the Bachelor of Civil Law degree; again it was unopposed, and 
provided for women's qualifications to be the same as men's. These 
ancient professions had no intention of lowering their standards by 
letting women in through a back door. 

During the autumn of 1918, when the War was clearly ending, the 
Committee of the Hebdomadal Council which had been considering 
the "Women's Statute" became active again. After the vote had 
been given to women over thirty the university, which had hitherto 


refused to recognize that women 'resided* at all, issued a form of 
application for registration which included a certificate of residence 
to be signed by the applicant's Principal. Miss Helena Deneke, of 
Lady Margaret Hall, was the first to register, and thus to cross the 
invisible Rubicon between actual and official residence. 

So seriously were the Oxford authorities now considering the 
future of the women that in October 1919 they brought a test case 
in order to ascertain the university's competence to admit them. This 
discussion, reported at length in the University Gazette for October 
22, 1919, included an historical summary of the relationship between 
women and the university in modern times. A preliminary statement, 
while acknowledging that "there is no evidence that any woman ever 
received a Degree" at Oxford University, quoted RashdalPs History 
of the Universities to show that during the Middle Ages some women 
had probably been awarded degrees at universities on the Con- 
tinent. 3 

This formidable document, for all its abstruse legal language, had 
a dramatic significance, since it represented the first intimation to the 
outside world that Oxford University was contemplating the admis- 
sion of women to membership. The two King's Counsel conducting 
the discussion, Mr G. J. Talbot and Sir John Simon, eventually con- 

There appears to us to be no good ground, in the absence of express 
enactment, for limiting the power of the University to admit to 
membership anyone who is able to receive that which it is the object 
of the University to give, namely teaching. 

But they advised the university authorities to obtain Parliamentary 
sanction for the changes proposed. 

By a fortunate chance the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 
designed to abolish women's remaining disabilities, was just then 
passing through Parliament. Through the help of Lord Robert Cecil 
an amendment moved by Major Hills was added to it, giving the 
university the powers that it required. The use made of them was 
an imaginative and generous response to women's share in the war- 
time work and sufferings of men. 

On November 26, 1919, the University Gazette issued a six-page 
supplement giving in full the proposed new statute under its official 
tide: "Titulus XXIII of Women Students." This measure went 

3 The universities to which reference was made were Salerno, Paris, Salamanca, 
Bologna, and Padua. 


farther than even the most optimistic of those who had struggled 
for it dared to hope. 

Contradicting Lord Curzon's earlier opinion that such a change 
would never be accepted by the university, the clause which excluded 
women from Convocation and examinerships had been altered for 
one of an opposite kind. Separate statutes, requiring only the assent 
of the King in Council, also made women eligible for Congregation 
and for the various faculties and their boards. Gone was all reference 
to 'registered women students/ and all degrees were to be open to 
women except the B.D. and D.D. 4 

The omission of these two theological degrees was due to expedi- 
ency, rather than to hesitation by the university on grounds of prin- 
ciple. In April 1913 the largest meeting of Convocation on record had 
discussed statutes which proposed to open examinerships in the 
Honours School of Theology, and degrees in Divinity, to men not in 
Holy Orders. Convocation then rejected this change by 1294 votes to 
1147. Owing to the War, a compromise was postponed until 1919, 
when the "Women's Statute" was already in draft, and the inclusion 
of these two degrees among those open to women would have delayed 
indefinitely the promulgation of the statute. (They were ultimately 
opened to women in 1935*) 

In Degrees by Degrees Annie Rogers offered a caustic summary : 

Greek, Theology and Women were perhaps the only subjects on 
which Convocation could be stirred up, and it was fortunate for the 
harmony of the University that the third was deferred to the more 
peaceful days that followed the war. 

The national changes which had given women the vote, and made 
them eligible for Parliament, spared the university authorities any 
disturbing suspicion that their revolutionary behaviour was, in fact, 
revolutionary. They were henceforth to be much more agitated over 
the fate of compulsory Greek, on which a final decision was now 
becoming imminent. 

As usual, Miss Rogers had a timely comment to make on the 
sudden rush of historic events which slow-moving Oxford had wit- 
nessed during the past tremendous decade. 

"The War/' she wrote in the Oxford Magazine for January 30, 
1920, "had made a peaceful change in the status of women which 
seemed incredible six years ago . . . Parliament has shown very 

4 Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity. 


clearly what it thinks about the removal of the customary legal dis- 
abilities o women." 

When Somerville migrated to Oriel, Miss Penrose had exhorted 
her students in a famous phrase to "avoid conspicuousness and 
exercise self-restraint." But what woman student from any college 
could now repress the heady sense of a new and hopeful return to life 
when it was actually combined with the increasing certainty that the 
long- withheld degrees would come? One Somervillian exuberantly 
attacked, in the undergraduate Oxford Outloo^ a Times editorial 
which suggested that Oxford women were seeking an extension of 
their "present advantages" without corresponding obligations. Other 
students at all the colleges debated the topic both publicly and in 
private with a growing freedom from "self-restraint." 

On February 17, 1920, when the Preamble of the "Women's 
Statute" was to be debated in Congregation, numbers of young 
women queued outside the crowded Congregation house. A few 
managed to get in and to gaze with hero-worshipping admiration at 
their champions Professor W. M. Geldart, who moved the Pre- 
amble, Dr A. D. Lindsay (later Lord Lindsay of Birker), who 
seconded it, and young Dr Walter Moberly, its supporter, who had 
come back from the War with a D.S.O. and two mentions in dis- 

From the very limited opposition which their pleas encountered 
the listening women realized that the battle was almost won. Two 
amendments designed to exclude women from the membership of 
Faculty Boards and from becoming examiners were subsequently 
debated without enthusiasm at the Sheldonian, and were both 

Those who were present on February 17 long remembered the 
sight of Professor Geldart and Annie Rogers shaking hands when 
the Preamble went through. In dignified words the University 
Gazette more soberly recorded this event: "The form of Statute pro- 
viding that Women may be matriculated and admitted to Degrees in 
the University was promulgated, and the Preamble thereof approved 
(nemine contradicente)" 

The following Michaelmas term, on October 7, the statute came 
into force. It reflected a world movement which, at least for a 
time, had swept away the prejudices obstructing women's progress 
at Oxford for nearly forty years. A series of decrees, typifying the 
different stages through which women's relationship to the university 


had passed, dealt with the problems of those women whose university 
course had been incomplete. They were permitted to qualify for the 
degree under the existing regulations providing that they matricu- 
lated, and paid dues not exceeding .5. After Matriculation they 
could sit for whatever examination they had missed, or some modern 

Ironically enough, not one of the principals of the women's 
societies had qualified for an Oxford degree. Even the eminent Miss 
Penrose had taken her First in "Greats" without the intermediate 
examination which was not open to her as an early student. At St 
Hugh's Miss Jourdain was similarly placed; her 1886 Second in 
History represented a Final examination only. Neither Mrs Johnson 
nor Miss Jex-Blake was a university woman, and Miss Winifred 
Moberly, now Principal of St Hilda's, had not completed her full 
university course as a student at Lady Margaret Hall. 

The university tactfully solved this problem by making them all 
Honorary M.A.'s by Decree of Convocation a privilege also granted 
to Miss Wordsworth and Miss Anne Moberly and to a number of 
women tutors. 

A further subject for discussion was that of the women's academic 
dress. The principals of the women's colleges would have preferred 
the usual Commoners' and Scholars' gowns, crowned by the custo- 
mary mortarboard, but the Proctors disliked this type of headgear 
for women. Eventually the university authorities selected the soft 
square black cap, with its unfortunate habit of slipping over one eye, 
which was described at the time as "a judicious compromise between 
Portia and Nerissa." 

With masculine indifference to possible changes of fashion, the 
Vice-Chancellor and Proctors interpreted "subfusc" for women in 
terms of a white blouse, dark coat and skirt, black shoes and stock- 
ings, and a black tie. The senior women were directed to wear the 
same schoolgirl costume as their juniors, and, not surprisingly, cases 
of revolt occurred in the highest quarters. 

Mrs Johnson declared that she had never worn a white blouse and 
would take her degree in a high-necked black dress a decision which 
she carried out regardless of the Proctors. Some of the older tutors 
also felt self-conscious in this rapidly improvised academic uniform. 
Ruth Butler quotes one typical comment by the daughter of a don : 
"I have always felt myself belonging to the University and this feels 
rather like dressing up for a charade." 


For the young women among the number almost a thousand 
due to be matriculated that term by the new Vice-Chancellor, Dr 
L. R. Farnell, Rector of Exeter, academic dress was all part of their 
new and glamorous status; they would hardly have believed that 
within a few years these symbols of equality would be seldom worn. 
In its issue of October 22 an Oxford Magazine versifier, by name 
Bryce McMaster, wrote a poem "Upon Julia's Clothes (With Pro- 
found Apologies)" : 

When as begowned my Julia goes, 
Then, then, methinks she sweetly knows 
The satisfaction of New Clothes. 

Next, when she casts her eyes, to see 
With grave elation the Degree 
O what a twittering maketh she! 

During 1920 and 1921, 1159 women matriculated, and their 
fees together with those from 362 M.A.'s and 540 B.A.'s brought 
the university approximately .20,000, and thus substantially in- 
creased its income. Other consequences of degrees for women were 
the opening to them of all college lectures (this time without fees) and 
the inclusion of lectures by women in the official faculties' lists. 

Women were now not only members of Congregation, Convoca- 
tion, and the various faculties, but became eligible to sit on boards, 
delegacies, and committees, and could compete for almost all the 
university scholarships and prizes. (In 1925 women also became 
eligible for election to the Hebdomadal Council.) The name and 
status of "recognized Societies'* was abolished, and each of the 
women's colleges was admitted as a "Society of Women Students" 
entitled to the privileges of the new statute which made their mem- 
bership of the university complete. Inevitably also the Delegacy for 
Women Students was dissolved, and with it the time-honoured 
Association for the Education of Women also came to an end. 5 

By a picturesque irony, an item of ^i 2s. 6d. for chaperonage 
appeared in the final (1919-20) statement of the A.E.W. accounts. Its 

5 Another result which might have been expected, but did not occur, was the 
emulation by Cambridge of Oxford's decision. In December 1920 a proposal brought 
before the Senate to give full membership of the university to Cambridge's present 
and future women students was rejected by 904 votes to 712. After nearly a year 
of wrangling over other abortive proposals a * Grace* giving women 'titular* degrees 
(which conferred no status) was carried in October 1921. Cambridge women did 
not become members of the university until 1947-48. 


presence bore witness to the anomalous burden of chaperon rules 
which had lain upon the women's colleges throughout the War. Miss 
Farnell relates that in 1918 a deputation of Somerville students went 
to see Miss Penrose with a request for their revision. She received the 
students sympathetically, but, with her peerless instinct for the right 
day and hour, said to them, "Wait. This is not the time. Wait/* 

The last meeting of the A.E.W. took place on December 20, 1920, 
and its final Report summarized the changed relations between 
Oxford women and the university : 

The work which the Council has carried on for forty-one years has 
been fully justified but is no longer necessary. Hitherto the Association 
has united women students and their teachers in one body; in future 
the University . . . will be the bond of union. 

A special University Delegacy now took charge of the Home 
Students, and the five women's societies themselves became respon- 
sible for entering candidates for examinations. A Women Students' 
Property Committee was established to deal with any property held 
by the women's colleges in common. 

Appropriately, with the demise of her special child, Mrs Johnson 
announced her impending resignation as Principal of the Home 
Students. In January 1921 she would be seventy-five; she had 'car- 
ried' her Society, now 200 in number, for nearly forty years. The 
only Principal left from the pioneers, she was one of the few to reap 
where she had sown. Though she had opposed degrees in 1895, some 
altered university regulations the end of compulsory Greek and the 
Honours schools established for English and Modern Languages 
helped to persuade her that their time had now come. 

Her period of office was prolonged to the end of the Hilary term 
1921, and the gathering which bade her farewell as Principal included 
both her husband and her granddaughter. "She left the Society," 
wrote Ruth Butler, "occupying a position in the University for which 
the pioneers could hardly have dared to hope." 

As a woman of deeply conservative instincts Bertha Johnson was 
an early and unexpected example of careers for married women. 
Another, her friend and contemporary Mrs Humphry Ward, died 
in the year that degrees were given. 

Two months before the A.E.W. ended, the university held, on 
October 14, 1920, the first degree-giving ceremony in which women 


had taken part. They helped to create the largest assembly of under- 
graduates 4181 men and 549 women which the ancient university 
had seen. 

For this greatest change ever to take place in its constitution. 
Nature co-operatively provided a day richly typical of the mellow 
beauty of Oxford's Michaelmas term. The air scintillated with 
sunshine; from walls and quadrangles hung the vivid ampelopsis 
which seemed to reflect the deep crimson of the M.A. hoods. 

Inside the Sheldonian Theatre, its atmosphere tense with the con- 
sciousness of a dream fulfilled, younger and older spectators looked 
down, moved and entranced, upon the complicated ceremony in the 
arena below. When the great south doors opened the five women 
principals, arrayed for the first time in caps and gowns, entered with 
Mrs Johnson, supported by her ebony stick but proudly erect, in her 
due place at their head. 

After a second's silence the theatre rang with unrehearsed applause, 
and the Vice-Chancellor rose to receive the first women Masters of 
Arts ever to appear in that historic place. They walked slowly to- 
wards him, bowed, and took their seats. 

When the men had received their degrees, cheers burst out again 
as the first fully qualified women graduates stood before the Vice- 
Chancellor. Among them were Dorothy L. Sayers, of Somerville; 
D. K. Broster, once at St Hilda's; and Ivy Williams, of the Home 
Students, who simultaneously received the B.A., M.A., and B.C.L. 

So great was the spontaneous enthusiasm that no one noticed the 
establishment of a precedent, destined to continue for several years, 
by which all the men were admitted to degrees, however minor, 
before all the women, however impressive. 

At Somerville's celebration dinner Professor Gilbert Murray, who 
had presented the Somerville graduates for their degrees, was guest 
of honour, and a special toast was drunk to a chief architect of that 
day's achievement, Emily Penrose. Owing to the policy which she 
had initiated of making the degree course compulsory for Somer- 
villians, the college had approximately 300 students ready for degrees. 

Miss Pope had also a share in that day's congratulations. Imme- 
diately the "Women's Statute" was passed she had been appointed 
for three years as the university's Taylorian Lecturer, and during that 
term was invited to act as Deputy Professor in Modern Languages 
during the Professor's absence. 


In its next issue the Oxford Magazine, appreciative if a litde 
sententious, handed out appropriate laudations among its news 
items : 

As usually happens with our countrymen, the 'occasion* was taken 

quietly The Vice-Chancellor and Proctors may be congratulated 

on the way in which this revolutionary change has been brought into 
the University cycle with proper dignity and without friction of any 

On March n, 1921, Queen Mary came to Oxford to receive an 
honorary D.C.L., the first honorary degree to be bestowed by the 
university on a woman. At BalHol College the five principals joined 
her for a festive luncheon, and she subsequently visited Lady Mar- 
garet Hall and Somerville. 

The following term seven generations of undergraduates took 
Schools and departed. With them ended the War period which had 
carried the women at Oxford through the dark night of anxiety and 
grief to their hour of triumph. 

6 Doctor of Civil Law. The page, C. H. Pearson of Balliol, who supported the 
Chancellor's robe on this occasion, subsequently became a Judge of the High Court. 

Chapter 8: The Pendulum Swings 


who could now vote in Congregation had to emulate Annie Rogers 
in studying the Statutes. They became members of university facul- 
ties, and thus took part in shaping the studies for which they pre- 
pared their students. Women tutors began to give university lectures 
and to take a share in examination work, though this was still far too 

Eight years after the passing of the "Women's Statute" an anony- 
mous writer in the Oxford Magazine alleged that the poor results 
achieved by women in the Final Schools of 1928 sprang from the 
subtle handicap of exclusive preparation by teachers who were 
allowed no inside knowledge of the examinations which their 
students were to take. 

Many posts, prizes, and scholarships were nevertheless open to 
women which had been closed before, and by the end of the decade, 
after some rough experience, their five societies were on the way to 
becoming true colleges and more typical members of the great institu- 
tion to which they belonged. 

For a few years the enthusiasm of women undergraduates for their 
caps and gowns persisted. These newly accepted members believed 
that the eyes of academic England were upon them, and the long files 
of young women, carefully dressed for Matriculation, marching 
through Holywell or the Parks shepherded by a dean became a 
familiar sight in Oxford. Conscientious students meticulously ob- 
served university etiquette, and sometimes gave it a personal inter- 
pretation. Ruth Butler records an incident in which an undergradu- 
ate, finding herself on a bicycle in a narrow lane with the Vice- 
Chancellor approaching, sprang from the machine and made a 
respectful bow, which was gravely returned. 

Women's residence now came under the University Controller of 
Lodgings, and women themselves under the supervision of the Proc- 
tors. To one recently matriculated student, stopped by a Proctor with 


the customary challenge, "Are you a member of this university?" 
legend attributes the brisk reply, "I never speak to a strange man 
in the street." 

The ineradicable addiction of women undergraduates to coffee and 
cakes at n A.M. was one of the first subjects which the Proctors re- 
ferred to the women principals, owing to the supposed waste of 
time and money involved. Much correspondence followed on the 
joint activities of men and women. From 1923 onward women were 
allowed to become members of political clubs, and mixed clubs of all 
kinds, which often met in men's colleges, now became customary. 
Soon the schoolgirlish evening assemblies for tea or cocoa in stu- 
dents' rooms agreeably gave way to sherry parties with men. 

The Proctors* Memorandum to male undergraduates for 1925 con- 
tained rules about "mixed parties," and both sexes were made 
responsible for their observance. Many strange improvisations charac- 
teristic of the interregnum between mere toleration and full member- 
ship now came to an end. One rule, a fruitful cause of mirth to later 
generations, had insisted that at mixed gatherings the number of 
women must always exceed by at least one the number of men. 

In 1926 a "Memorandum on the Conduct and Discipline of Junior 
Members of the University," popularly known as "the Grey Book," 
superseded all previous regulations both sensible and absurd. But 
many more visits between the university authorities and the women 
principals and tutors had to be made before the new freedoms and 
customs were established, and the unhappy description "mixed 
parties" was replaced by the more dignified expression "joint 
societies and entertainments." 

The popular newspapers took their usual interest in these colourful 
details, and the Oxford Magazine acidly complained that the Memo- 
randum had, "somewhat belatedly, stirred up the yellower sections 
of the London Press to make 'copy* out of matters about which they 
are ignorant." 

This long process of bringing the women within the framework of 
contemporary university practice will seem slow only to readers who 
underrate the alarm at the completeness of women's acceptance felt 
by many dons who feared to see their Oxford become a normal 
society. Before the decade ended another constitutional crisis affect- 
ing women 1 was to show that these reactionary influences were 
far from dead. Nevertheless, twelve months after this event, the 

1 See pages 171-173. 


Senior Proctor, Mr E. L. Woodward, commented at the end of his 
year of office on the wisdom with which the transition from past to 
present had been achieved. "Only in a dying State," he added, "does 
each generation follow exactly the path laid down for it." 

Meanwhile many women students of previous generations had their 
own formidable problems, which centred upon methods of qualify- 
ing for a degree during the six years' latitude extended to them by the 
university. Large numbers claimed their privileges, of whom at least 
two were over sixty; they completed their courses by means of 
Pass examinations, or crammed enough Latin and Greek to get 
through Responsions. 

Even the distinguished Grace Hadow, now Secretary at Barnett 
House, found herself humorously involved in "Divvers," while, 
according to Ruth Butler, one Modern Languages Tutor strolled 
into the office of her society to borrow the Examination Statutes, 
casually remarking, "I am taking *B 2 ' 2 to-morrow, and I may as 
well know what are the set books." 

Most severe were the difficulties of some older students who had 
taken the past "special examinations for women," which included 
the Honours examinations for English and Modern Languages be- 
fore such tests existed for men. Though these subjects had been insti- 
tuted as Honours schools for both sexes in 1894 and 1904 respectively, 
the university refused to accept the earlier examination as a qualifi- 
cation for the degree. One lecturer, Miss Olwen Rhys, who had 
taken a First in the university's Women's Examination in 1901 and 
had been teaching Oxford students ever since, found herself com- 
pelled to take a complete course of Pass degree examinations in 
order to obtain her B.A. and M.A. 

A new possibility opened by the "Women's Statute" was that of 
women's honorary degrees. Following the D.C.L. bestowed on 
Queen Mary, some early nominations included the Duchess of York, 
the Duchess of Atholl, Dame Ethel Smyth, and Miss Lilian Faithf ull. 
In June 1925 the honorary degree of D.Sc. was conferred upon an 
American astronomer, Miss Annie Cannon, who confused Oxford 
with Cambridge and expected to provoke a hostile demonstration 
from male undergraduates. 

During the decade 192030 all five women's societies changed their 
principals, the Home Students twice. Four of these events occurred 
2 B 2 = one of the Pass degree 'groups/ 

TH t>K>xjLtJM SWINGS 161 

owing to retirements, one to death after prolonged illness, and a 
sixth to sudden death following an acute academic crisis. 

In 1921, after the attainment of degrees, Miss Jex-Blake and Mrs 
Johnson had respectively resigned from the headships of Lady Mar- 
garet Hall and the Home Students. For its new Principal Lady Mar- 
garet Hall turned to Cambridge, and from Newnham brought Miss 
Mary Lynda Dorothy Grier, an economist, whose wide experience 
had also included Bedford College and the Acting Professorship in 
Economics at Leeds University from 1915 to 1919. Miss Grier, a 
daughter of Prebendary R, M. Grier, of Lichfield Cathedral, had 
published a study of Industry and Finance for the British Associa- 
tion in 1920, and was to write the Life of Winifred Mercier in 1937. 

More significantly Miss Grier, businesslike, capable, vigorous, and 
judicious, became in 1926 the first woman to be elected to Oxford's 
Hebdomadal Council. This blow to the academic diehards contri- 
buted to the university crisis of 1927. For them it seemed "the begin- 
ning of the end," though women were now no more than one-sixth 
of the university undergraduates, and Miss Grier 's election gave them 
only one-twenty-second share in the governing body. 

Miss Grier had also the less controversial but hardly less formid- 
able obligation of supervising the extension of Lady Margaret Hall 
to meet the unremitting demand for accommodation at the women's 
colleges precipitated by the War. In the spring of 1922 over 120 girls 
had given Lady Margaret Hall as their first choice at the Entrance 
examination, but only 34 rooms were then available for new students. 

To the original Talbot Building had now been added a balancing 
wing, Toynbee Building, also designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield. 
In 1926 the same architect created a new Lodge Building to link the 
Wordsworth building with the Old Hall. 

In 1921 Miss C. M. E. Burrows, Principal of St Hilda's from 1910 
to 1919, succeeded Mrs Johnson as Principal of the Home Students. 
In this post she could more easily meet the claims of her mother's fail- 
ing health, which had obliged her to retire from the college. For the 
first few years of its existence St Hilda's had ranked technically as a 
section of the Home Students., and this link had given Miss Burrows 
a close knowledge of their needs. 

Miss Burrows inherited an unconventional society which under 
Mrs Johnson's benevolent autocracy had developed almost no struc- 
ture. Though its formal business had been conducted through the 
A.E.W. most of the interviewing and correspondence was carried 


out in the Principal's house, where Mrs Johnson assumed entire 
control of the admission of students and their allocation to tutors. 

Now that the redundant Delegacy for Women Students was closed, 
the Society acquired a new governing body, the Delegacy for Home 
Students, on which the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors sat as official 
members. Its leading personalities during this reconstruction period 
included Annie Rogers, who had been on its governing body since 
1879; its Treasurer, Mrs Prichard, herself a Home Student with an 
1898 First in "Greats"; and Professor W. M. Geldart, who died, his 
work for women accomplished, in Jamaica during the spring of 

A general tightening of discipline followed, though Miss Burrows 
maintained as far as she could the personal touch to which Mrs 
Johnson had attached so much importance. The newly named 
* hostesses* in charge of the students' lodgings now came under the 
University Controller. 

In 1921 the pressure of candidates for admission compelled a 
stricter form of selection than Mrs Johnson's personal flair for the 
suitable student. Examination tests were imposed for the first time, 
and few undergraduates were admitted except to work for an 
Honours degree. To avoid injustice to the category of students from 
which the Society had grown, Pass degrees were still allowed for 
women with homes or professional work in Oxford, but they did 
not thereby escape Proctorial discipline. 

A History of St Anne's Society describes how one student, 
reported for appearing at a Hallowe'en revel in .Broad Street, was 
brought before her own academic authorities. To their inquiry about 
the costume that she was actually wearing came the earnest reply, "I 
was dressed as the Devil, but I had my gown on top." 

Soon after the "Women's Statute" had been passed the large 
'windfall' received from their degree and Matriculation fees enabled 
the university to purchase a commodious building known as Holy- 
well House. In 1921 part of this dwelling subsequently known as 
One Jowett Walk was allocated to the Home Students for central 
offices and the Nettleship Library. Their attic and basement days 
were over at last. 

As the traditional system of intercollegiate tutoring had now become 
obsolete, Miss Burrows began to build up a stronger tutorial staff. 
These included Miss B. A. Lees, formerly History Tutor at Somer- 
ville; Miss Cecilia M. Ady from St Hugh's; and Miss M. C. G. 


Hugon, who continued to serve the Society as Modern Languages 
Tutor until 1947. 

In 1923 the Principal herself finally received a secure stipend after 
application by the Home Students' Delegacy to the Hebdomadal 
Council. The Society prospered, and slowly acquired an academic 

Four years later the death of Mrs Johnson, only six weeks after that 
of her husband, ended an epoch for both the Home Students and the 
history of women's emancipation at Oxford. 

Even as a near-octogenarian she had retained her vigilance, com- 
menting severely in the Oxford Magazine on an adverse and anony- 
mous review which had appeared there of Janet P. Trevelyan's life 
of her mother, Mrs Humphry Ward. 3 The writer of Mrs Johnson's 
own obituary in the same magazine reflected a similar asperity : 

Pioneers sometimes fail to see the inevitable results of their initiative, 
and Mrs Johnson was no exception. She was a strong advocate of the 
central authority, and there were times when her colleagues had to 
work hard to make her realize the College point of view and its 
educational claims. 

In 1923-24 a tragic controversy at St Hugh's College caused a con- 
stitutional crisis which shook the university, but, by compelling the 
four women's colleges to change and improve their constitutions, 
eventually brought good out of evil. 

This crisis originated in a difference of outlook and values between 
the Principal, Miss Jourdain, and her much-respected History Tutor, 
Miss Cecilia Ady. It reached its height in the Hilary term of 1924, 
after Miss Jourdain had virtually dismissed Miss Ady. On this dis- 
pute the Oxford Magazine subsequently passed judgment in its issue 
of March 6: 

The charge . . . seemed ... to reduce itself to this, that Miss Ady 
frequently disagreed with the Principal on matters of business and 
discipline, and discussed her disagreement with other tutors. If that is 
a charge which should rightly entail the dismissal of a tutor from 
office, ninety per cent, of the tutors of the men's colleges would resign 

8 "Mrs Humphry Ward is so typical of an aspect of the Victorian age with which 
we are to-day out of sympathy," the reviewer had written, "that only a very brilliant 
biography could make her life really interesting to us, and Mrs Trevelyan's book 
does not pretend to brilliancy." 


Five tutors and six members of St Hugh's Council resigned in 
protest; dons from the other women's colleges expressed their sym- 
pathy by declining to teach St Hugh's students. Some of these 
students, their opportunities of obtaining a good class in Schools 
being thus undermined by tension in the Senior Common Room, 
sent an ironical contribution to "College Correspondence" in the 
Oxford Magazine for January 31, 1924 : 

The J.C.R. has not yet recovered from the loss of the staff of tutors 
who were much liked and respected. The strange atmosphere makes it 
difficult for the College to settle down. However, the friendliness of 
the weather during the last few days has reminded people that games 
are always enjoyable. 

Finally, after a petition from over 200 former students of the col- 
lege, the Council of St Hugh's invited the Chancellor of the Univer- 
sity (still Lord Curzon) to exercise the jurisdiction of a Visitor and 
hold a private inquiry into the dispute. His conclusions, which vin- 
dicated Miss Ady and urged the Council to consider what constitu- 
tional reforms would secure a more harmonious relationship among 
the college authorities, mentioned "changes in personnel" as a pos- 
sible solution. 

By the time that the Oxford Magazine published his Report in its 
first issue of the Trinity term 1924, fate had stepped in to provide the 
major change in personnel which the conflict required. Side by side 
with the Report the magazine published an obituary of Miss Jour- 
dain. She had died suddenly in April 1924, at the house in Norham 
Gardens which she and Miss Moberly shared, a week after the Chan- 
cellor's document had been signed. 

Thirty-five years ago the sober though periodically caustic pages of 
the Oxford Magazine unfolded this unhappy story in several issues. 
During 1957, in The Ghosts of Versailles, Lucille Iremonger, herself 
a student of St Hugh's who as Lucille Parks went down in 1937, 
disinterred and republished it in relentless detail. Her purpose, 
as stated, was to examine the authenticity of the Adventure by 
analysing the characters of Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain. 
Towards Miss Moberly she displayed a determined respect, but she 
dealt severely with Miss Jourdain, whose friends and relatives, some 
people might argue, were less than conscientious in their care of letters 
written to them by the dead Principal. 

A modern medical judgment might perhaps more mercifully con- 


elude that when the controversy began Miss Jourdain was suffering 
from acute mental and physical strain, aggravated by unsuspected 
heart disease. Upon her, after Miss Moberly's retirement in 1915, 
had fallen the burden of the War, the supervision of St Hugh's exten- 
sive building programme, and the ever-increasing post-War pressure 
of would-be students upon accommodation which was still unequal 
to their demands. 4 Between 1920 and the time of Miss Jourdain's 
death the number of undergraduates at St Hugh's rose from 115 to 

Perhaps the worst which can really be said of her is that she was 
unequal to the mature restraints and balanced judgments demanded 
of a twentieth-century college principal, and to the end of her life 
remained in heart and mind that typical minor despot, the head- 
mistress of a private school. 

Belatedly conscious of these extenuating facts, the Oxford Maga- 
zine did its best for Miss Jourdain and, doubtless moved by some 
obscure impulse towards atonement, gave her more total space than 
they allocated to the great A. L. Smith, Master of Balliol, who died 
during the same spring. 

"The head of another College," ran their obituary note on May i, 

died, as she also would have wished, in harness and at her post. 
Opinions will continue to differ as to the events of the past few 
months, but even her strongest opponents will be ready to forget what 
seemed to them her error, and to remember with honour the courage, 
the tenacity and the devotion with which Miss Jourdain served the 
College of which . . . she was so largely the maker. It is a tragic end 
to the impasse at St Hugh's, and yet perhaps we should say Felix 
ofportunitate mortis. 

To St Hugh's Library Miss Jourdain bequeathed her distinguished 
collection of the works of lesser French writers of the fifteenth cen- 
tury. More important compensation ultimately came to the College 
itself from both a new principal and a new constitution; the chief 
sufferer from the tragedy of 1924 was probably Miss Moberly, now 
verging on eighty. 

From the time of their joint 'Adventure' her friendship with 
Eleanor Jourdain had been fundamental to the private lives of both 

* All the Oxford colleges suffered from this pressure, but the men were better 
equipped to meet it. Sir Charles Mallet's History of the University of Oxford estimates 
the total number of undergraduates in i$zo as 4650 a larger number than the 
university had ever seen before. 


women. In vacations they occupied the same small house, 4 Norham 
Gardens, and each evening during the term said good-night on the 
telephone. Now, outraged and heartbroken but still undefeated, Miss 
Moberly devoted all her remaining energy to seeing that Miss Jour- 
dain's memory suffered as little as possible from the tempest from 
which she herself had been excluded. 

"In the crisis of bereavement, indignation had first place, but as 
the dust of conflict cleared away, a fairer and calmer judgment 
became possible." Thus, discreetly, wrote the anonymous author of 
Miss Moberly's Oxford Magazine obituary notice in the next decade, 
and added: "Her devotion to Eleanor Jourdain expressed itself in 
forms unalloyed by partisanship, and, in the true Christian spirit 
which was her heritage and gift, the issues which had moved her so 
profoundly were quietly laid aside." 

At an age when new friendships become improbable Miss Moberly 
lived on in Norham Gardens; being six years younger, she even 
outlived Dame Elizabeth Wordsworth. But the St Hugh's contro- 
versy, though quiescent, did not die with her; its last protagonist 
remained on the scenes until the spring of 1958. 

After her vindication by the Chancellor's inquiry Dr Cecilia Ady 
"did not seek reappointment at St Hugh's," but in 1927 she became 
a University Lecturer in Modern History, and an Oxford D.Litt. in 
1938 after the publication of her chief book, The Bentivoglio of 
Bologna. As a strong Anglo-Catholic and a member of the Church 
Assembly she dedicated her final years largely to Church affairs. By 
her will, published in June 1958, she left .10,000 to St Hugh's "to 
build a chapel for the college, or to pay a college chaplain." 

In June 1924 came the appointment as St Hugh's new Principal of 
Miss Barbara Gwyer, a Classical Scholar of Lady Margaret Hall in 
1900 who obtained sound Seconds in Honour Moderations and 
"Greats," and was the first Principal of a women's society to be 
already a member of Convocation when entering office. She had 
previously been Vice-Warden of Ashburne Hall, Manchester, and a 
Warden of University Hall, Leeds. 

"Her experience," guardedly announced the Oxford Magazine, 
"has been gained among University students, not among schoolgirls 
we wish her every success and are confident that St Hugh's will 
in due time recover its credit in the University which recent events 
have not a little impaired." 

Probably only a woman of great courage would have accepted the 


Headship of St Hugh's at that inauspicious moment. Miss Gwyer's 
tenacity and devotion kept her in her difficult post until 1946, but she 
had restored the status of her college long before she reached the end 
of her twenty-two years as Principal. 

Where a more brilliantly ambitious scholar might well have failed, 
Miss Gwyer brought to St Hugh's exactly the tact, discretion, good 
sense, and administrative ability that this moment of history de- 
manded. Concerned for the college rather than for herself, and 
totally uninterested in the publicity which had dogged Miss Moberly 
and Miss Jourdain, she changed it from an immature if much- 
discussed educational body into a true Oxford institution. At the 
outset she was faced with the constitutional reforms required by the 
university from all the women's colleges after the Chancellor's in- 

Lord Curzon did not live to see the changes which he had sug- 
gested. He died in 1925 and was succeeded by Lord Cave, 5 the first 
Chancellor for whom Oxford women voted. 

Constitutional alterations at the women's colleges had already been 
foreshadowed by a Royal Commission appointed in 1919 and set up 
in 1920 with Mr Asquith as Chairman. In addition to a grant of 
^Tiooo a year to each of the Oxford women's colleges this Commission 
had recommended that they should seek incorporation by Royal 
Charter and draw up Statutes a procedure now rendered urgent by 
the crisis at St Hugh's. 

In the early nineteen-twenties probably only the two senior colleges, 
Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville, were sufficiently developed to 
join on relatively equal terms the community of ancient institutions 
to which they were newcomers. Even they were still involved, not 
without mistakes, in the process of finding and making themselves. 
The dispute at St Hugh's was of great psychological importance 
because it threw a searching light upon the immaturity, varying with 
each society, of the women's colleges, and compelled them all to 
consider where they were going and how far they still had to go. 

"The plain truth is this," an editorial writer had stated in the 
Oxford Magazine during March 1924 : 

St Hugh's is not a college at all, as that term is understood in 
Oxford. It is a girls' school, of which the Principal is Headmistress 

5 Mr Asquith was Lotd Cave's competitor in this election. 


and the Tutors are assistant mistresses, .liable in practice, though not in 
theory, to dismissal by the Principal. 

An earlier comment had politely given the college the excellent 
advice which was now to be followed : 

Men, conscious no doubt, of their greater propensity to evil, have 
provided their Colleges with two antidotes to masculine infirmities 
properly framed constitutions to prevent the occurrence of disputes, 
and Visitors to act as agreed and ultimate courts of appeal if disputes 
should, nevertheless, occur. Is it an insult to the intelligence of the 
superior sex to advise that it too should take steps to submit itself to 
these salutary restrictions? 

By the end of 1926 all the four women's colleges had acquired new 
constitutions which put an end to their existence as registered com- 
panies. The new Royal Charters required that each college should 
appoint a Visitor, 6 and followed a common pattern in spite of dif- 
ferences in detail. 

Lady Margaret Hall became incorporated under the name of "The 
Principal, Council and Members of Lady Margaret Hall." It was the 
only college to include its students as members of the corporate body. 

Somerville College had strongly urged in 1924 that, instead of 
including the whole body of members, they should incorporate only 
the Principal and Council by analogy with "older academic founda- 
tions which have stood the test of time." This recommendation was 
followed in June 1926. The taking over of the Chairmanship of the 
Council by the Principal, the increase of the number of official Fel- 
lows to ten, and the extending devolution of responsibilities to a com- 
mittee of the Principal and Fellows, brought the college still more 
into line with Oxford traditions, though its constitutional develop- 
ment was not completed for another three decades. 

St Hugh's dissolved its old Association in October 1926, and 
replaced it by a new corporate body entitled "The Principal and 
Council of St Hugh's College." The Council thenceforth elected its 
own members, except for three chosen from the body of "Senior 
Members" and any woman professor whom the college might be 
required by University Statute to admit to a Professorial Fellowship. 

* It is ordered by statute that the Visitor for Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville 
College shall be the Chancellor of the University. St Hugh's first Visitor was Lord 
Cecil of Chelwood, and their second Sir Oliver Franks (formerly Provost of 
Queen's). The Rt. Rev. H. H. Williams, D.D., and the Bishop of Oxford re- 
spectively fulfilled this function for St. Hilda's and St Anne's. 


After a probationary period the college tutors became official Fellows 
and members of the Council. No member of the governing body 
except the Principal was now obliged to belong to the Church of 

St Hilda's had also been granted a Royal Charter in March 1926 
under the style of "The Principal and Council of St Hilda's College, 
Oxford." This change involved separation from St Hilda's College, 
Cheltenham, with which the college had been incorporated in 1901, 
but four representatives of the Cheltenham Ladies' College still sat on 
the St Hilda's Council. 

In February 1926 Miss Penrose announced her impending retire- 
ment after nineteen years at Somerville. Her final half-year was 
eventful, for it included the General Strike 7 in May and, more signi- 
ficant for Somerville, the change o college constitution in June. On 
June i a large crowd thronged the Sheldonian to see her receive the 
honorary degree of D.C.L. After retirement she left Oxford and lived 
in Hampstead. 

Her equally remarkable but totally different successor, Sara Mar- 
gery Fry, was to remain in office only for half a decade, but in that 
brief period she left a lasting impression and "fulfilled long years." 
In 1951 eighty women who were at Somerville in her time, and still 
remembered her with gratitude, entertained her at the House of 

Whether Oxford was overwhelmed by Miss Fry or she by Oxford 
is a fact which has never been clearly established. Certainly the 
boundaries of the university were too limited to hold indefinitely this 
eager, strenuous penal reformer, with her outward-looking gaze and 
her "vision of the world and all the wonder that would be." She had 
the true scholar's respect for scholarship, but what the scholar did 
with her knowledge and qualifications mattered to her more. 

Sara Margery Fry was the eighth of the nine children of a great 
Victorian Judge, Sir Edward Fry. Her mother, Mariabella, was the 
daughter of a conveyancing barrister, John Hodgkin, and sister of 
Thomas Hodgkin, the historian. The Fry sisters, Joan, Isabel, 
Agnes, Margery, and Ruth, 8 were kinswomen but not descendants 

7 During this crisis men undergraduates were allowed to leave for bus-driving 
and other national activities, but women were ordered to remain in Oxford an 
injunction justly regarded as wholly unreasonable. 

8 A sixth sister, Mariabella, died in 1920, and a seventh, Elizabeth Alice, in child- 


of Elizabeth Fry. Margery's concern for penal reform was not in- 
herited, but was as individual as the artistic gifts of her second 
brother, Roger. 

"It was there because she knew that prisoners, and prison staffs, 
were people," wrote R. Duncan Fairn in The Friend after her death; 
"that people matter and, what is more, she loved them with a catho- 
licity in which sentimentality had no place." 

As a member of the Quaker community Margery Fry could no 
more fit into a preordained pattern than she did at Oxford. In 1932 
she resigned from the Society of Friends because she could no longer 
make the affirmation that membership required. 

After her period as Librarian at Somerville, where she laid the 
foundations of a first-class library, she became the Warden of the 
women's hostel at Birmingham University known later as Univer- 
sity House, and remained there until the First World War sent her 
to France with the Friends' War Victims Relief Committee. 

When her service as Somerville' s Principal had ended she became, 
from 1937 until the Second World War, a Governor of the B.B.C. 
After that war, millions of listeners and viewers became familiar 
with her expressive voice, mobile face, and distinctive white hair 
through her broadcasts and television appearances. 

"She was everybody's idea of their favourite aunt," commented 
a Brains Trust official, explaining her success. 

But though, towards the end of her long life, Miss Fry became so 
closely identified with a modern medium of communication, penal 
reform remained her chief concern. By "friendly persuasion" she 
brought about the union of the Penal Reform League with the 
Howard Association, and so created the existing Howard League for 
Penal Reform. In 1925 she supported Roy Calvert when he resigned 
from the Civil Service to found the National Council for the Aboli- 
tion of the Death Penalty. 

She travelled widely, and visited prisoners wherever she went. 
With her colleague Gertrude Eaton she created a place for penal 
reform on the agenda of the League of Nations which has now taken 
shape as the Social Defence section of the United Nations. Not long 
before her death on April 21, 1958, at the age of eighty-four, she 
launched, with a signed article in The Observer, a project for com- 
pensating the victims of violence. 

A letter published in the same newspaper on April 27, 1958, from 
Hugh J. Klare, the Secretary of the Howard League, recorded that 


she had declined the C.H. (Companion of Honour) offered in recog- 
nition of her valiant career. 

"When she first suspected that she was not going to recover/' he 
added, "she faced the prospect of death with the same gay courage 
that she had always shown in facing life." 

In A Somervillian Loo^s Eac\ Miss Farnell has described Mar- 
gery Fry's arrival to "take over" from her predecessor. Miss Pen- 
rose, dignified, statuesque, and a little weary, probably remembered 
to the end of her days the appearance of the small, vital woman who 
was to become the new Principal. 

"She was wearing a long pillar-box-red cloth coat, and her dark 
hair with its wavy streak of grey was cut short like a boy's; it was 
clear from the first that the change would keep us alive." 

By the most incongruous of chances Miss Fry became Principal of 
Somerville just in time to witness a strong swing of the Oxford pen- 
dulum from its 1920 impetus. In November 1926 two straws indi- 
cated the adverse direction of the wind. 

On November 25 the Oxford Magazine described a crowded Union 
debate of the previous week, when the House decided by a majority 
of 25 votes that "the Women's Colleges should be levelled to the 
ground." In this debate Lucy Stuart Sutherland, the gifted South 
African graduate from the University of the Witwatersrand who was 
now President of the Somerville Debating Society, defended the 
women's colleges in "clear but modulated tones" without preventing 
the adverse vote. The male undergraduates who helped her to oppose 
the motion included Richard Acland and Dingle Foot. 

The same issue of the magazine, reporting recent proceedings in 
Congregation, gave a sinister explanation of the prolonged and 
crowded session. "The question that drew the House was mainly 
an anticipation of what is likely to be the most important struggle of 
the academic year the suggestion that the number of women 
students should be limited by Statute." 

This suggestion took shape in a petition to the Hebdomadal 
Council by 210 Members of Congregation, asking for such restrictive 
legislation. It demanded that Lady Margaret Hall and St Hugh's 
should be limited to 160 students each, Somerville and St Hilda's to 
150. An offer of voluntary self-limitation by the women's colleges was 
refused unless they would pledge themselves to vote for a measure 
forbidding the foundation of any other women's college in Oxford. 


The impulse behind the new anti-feminist move did not originate, 
as might have been supposed, from the crisis at St Hugh's; its 
organizers feared women's success more than their failure. The 
rapid increase in the number of women in residence after the grant- 
ing of degrees had filled them with misgivings; they had also been 
alarmed by the legitimate attempts of some women voters to ensure, 
at the Hebdomadal Council election of 1926, new members friendly 
to their interests. This had resulted in the addition of Miss Grier and 
at the same time had caused, as the Oxford Magazine phrased it, 
"the lopping off of some of the very stateliest heads." 

In June 1927 the issue was fought out in a bitter full-dress debate at 
the Sheldonian. On June 15 the University Gazette recorded that the 
previous day "a form of Statute limiting the number of Women 
Students who may be admitted to the University was promulgated 
and the Preamble thereof approved on a division (placets 229, non- 
placets 164)." 

Miss Fry, fighting her first constitutional battle, had argued in the 
debate that the relationship between young men and women was in 
process of adjustment at Oxford, and the presence of women heads of 
colleges on the Hebdomadal Council and elsewhere had contributed 
no little to the solution of the problems involved. But the hostile 
current had become too strong for her and her supporters. 

This defeat affected the women's colleges more than the Home 
Students, whose position had been reviewed earlier in the year and 
whose numbers were then limited to 220. The total, 840, now allowed 
to the five societies gave women only about one sixth of the number 
of men. 

Six days earlier the Oxford Magazine had analysed the controversy 
under "University Intelligence": 

The voting next Tuesday is on a question as important as any that 

has come before this generation The question to be decided is very 

simple is Oxford to be a man's University with a certain amount of 
women admitted, or is it to be a * mixed University,' where circum- 
stances beyond its control will determine the proportions of men and 
women? If the Statute be rejected, it will certainly be taken to mean 
that no limit need be set to the number of women students. 

As usual, the correspondence columns of university publications 
reflected the feelings aroused by the conflict. A long letter from Miss 
E. M. Jamison, Vice-Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, protested 
against the attempt of "The Limitation Statute" to bind the future 


and to treat women as women rather than as human beings. "An 

Old Oxonian " pointed out that 

the Women's Societies have lost by death or removal from Oxford 
many of their best and oldest friends, and this, no doubt, has facilitated 
the recent attack on their autonomy and dignity, which contrasts in 
so surprising a manner with anything they have experienced before 
and which is probably without parallel in the history of the University. 

This time, throughout the discussion, the Oxford Magazine had 
editorially opposed the women's cause. Its commentator now offered 
polite consolation: "Women heretofore, in Oxford, have shown 
themselves to be good winners; we believe they will prove themselves 
no less good as losers." 

But the women, though accepting defeat in a conciliatory spirit, 
did not intend to be good losers; they did not mean to be losers at all. 
And eventually, having known how to wait, they were not. 

Five months after this belated clash between Oxford University and 
its women members the Magazine's "Notes and News" announced 
that Annie Rogers who resigned her last tutorial position, at St 
Hugh's, in 1921 had reached the formal end of her long service as 
an official of women's education. 

"Her knowledge of the University Statutes is unrivalled," the 
writer added. "It was always said that only the late Mr Gerrans and 
the present Registrar were her equals." 

Characteristically Miss Rogers, now seventy-one, repudiated this 
attempt to retire her. She had been appointed a Delegate of Home 
Students for three more years, she stated, and hoped to complete at 
least half a century of "continuous work for improving and strength- 
ening the relation of women to the University, a work in which, until 
this year, there has been no setback and no serious cause for dis- 

Like so many pioneers, Annie Rogers did not live to see her work 
finished and the setback reversed, but the following year she took 
part in the ceremony which coincided with a handsome addition to 
her favourite college. On October 10, 1928, St Hugh's Visitor, Lord 
Cecil of Chelwood, opened the new extension known as the Mary 
Gray Allen Wing. 

In 1915, after her legacy to St Hugh's, Clara Evelyn Mordan had 
bequeathed the remainder of her fortune unconditionally to her 
friend Mary Gray Allen. Miss Allen respected Miss Mordan's sym- 


pathies, and on her own death in 1926 left St Hugh's a sum which, 
when death duties had been paid, amounted to a further .25,000. 

The Mary Gray Allen Wing, with the new Moberly Library, was 
completed in 1936. St Hugh's new buildings had thus all been 
erected within twenty-one years, designed by the same architect, 
Herbert Buckland, and carried out, with an attractive harmony, by 
the same firm of builders. The institution which had begun as a 
modest hostel with four students was now one of the largest and most 
impressive of Oxford's newer colleges. 

The combined gift which made this transformation possible was 
the first of a very few substantial endowments of women's education 
by women, of which Virginia Woolf lamented the scarcity in A 
Room of One's Own. 

No other college could compete with a building programme of 
this kind in the 1920-30 decade, but one of the first duties of Lord 
Cave, the recently elected Chancellor, had been to open in October 
1925 the new South Building at St Hilda's, which he described as 
the most beautiful site left in Oxford. This house was reconstructed 
from Cherwell Hall, a training college belonging to the Church of 
England Corporation and purchased by the St Hilda's Council in 

Like St Hilda's, Somerville College had received its share 
(^13,000) of the Four Oxford Women's Colleges' Joint Appeal soon 
after the War, but, though the constitutional foresight of its Council 
had been so keen, its endowments had not kept pace with its academic 
advance. No large contributions from outside, comparable to those 
received by St Hugh's and later by St Anne's, came to its timely 

In common with worthy voluntary societies ignominiously com- 
pelled to rely on jumble sales, the dignified college had perforce to 
resort to such expedients as lectures, concerts, and the periodic exhibi- 
tions of Italian linen collected by Mary Winearls Porter, its Lady 
Carlisle Research Fellow in Crystallography from 1919 to 1929. 

No large-scale expansion therefore became possible under Miss 
Fry. The most noteworthy addition was the Penrose Building, erected 
in 1927 at the south-west corner of the garden on the site of two 
Walton Street houses, but planned and designed by Harold Rogers 
before Miss Fry's arrival. She had to content herself with minor 
improvements and the benefits of Radcliffe House, which she was 
the first Principal to occupy. But she discovered a brilliant architect, 


Morley Horder, who after she had left Oxford designed the lovely 
East Quadrangle between the college Gatehouse and St Aloysius 

If only one college was able, in this decade, to launch an ambitious 
project for extension, the successes of Oxford women as tutors, 
graduates, and undergraduates quietly refuted the university's detrac- 
tion of their academic value. 

At its Jubilee celebrations in 1928 Lady Margaret Hall was able to 
claim in Eleanor Lodge, now Principal of Westfield College, Lon- 
don, the first woman to be awarded the degree of D.Litt. by Oxford 
University. On the same occasion "the most stimulating, gay, un- 
expected and human of Principals," Elizabeth Wordsworth, now 
aged eighty-eight, received the insignia of the D.B.E. from the 
Duchess of York. At that year's Encaenia she was also awarded the 
honorary D.C.L. 

"Those of us who were in the Sheldonian on that brilliant June 
day," wrote C. G. Luard, in the Wordsworth Memorial Number of 
the Lady Margaret Hall Brown BooJ^ 

recall the dignity of that old, slightly bent figure arrayed in the gor- 
geous robes, with the round velvet cap that made her look strangely 
like Holbein's portrait of Erasmus, listening, with a little smile on her 
face, to the Latin speech of the Public Orator. 

Five years earlier the college had appointed as Susette Taylor Re- 
search Fellow a distinguished scholar, Helen Jane Waddell, who as a 
graduate student from Belfast had studied at Somerville from 1920 to 
1922. After her Lady Margaret Hall research work she published 
between 1927 and 1933, among other studies, three now famous 
books The Wandering Scholars, Medieval Latin Lyrics, and Peter 

In 1927 the investiture of Oxford's first Dame, Emily Penrose, 
preceded by one year that of Miss Wordsworth, and two years later, 
when Eleanor Rathbone was elected Member of Parliament for the 
Combined English Universities, Somerville also claimed Oxford's 
first woman M.P. 

Her portrait, overlooking Somerville' s High Table, shows her as 
the House of Commons was to know her for seventeen years. In the 
picture she wears a black dress over white, with a pearl pendant. Her 
brown eyes beneath black brows gaze earnestly into the hall, and her 
white hair is dressed without art on the top of her head. Both dress 


and hair reveal a characteristic indifference to external attractions, 
but the whole portrait, like the hand slightly clenched in her lap, 
conveys a massive strength and resolution. 

Somerville under Miss Fry also acquired three outstanding young 
tutors: Lucy Sutherland, who took charge of the difficult new school 
of Modern "Greats" (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) founded 
in 1921 ; Enid Starkie, who had won her Paris Doctorate and served 
for three years as lecturer at University College, Exeter, before return- 
ing to Oxford as Sarah Smithson Lecturer in French Literature; and 
Isobel Munro (later Mrs Henderson), the daughter of J. A. R. 
Munro, Rector of Lincoln College, who became Somerville's first 
T. H. Green Tutor in Ancient History after brilliantly winning, as 
a Home Student, a First in Honour Moderations and in "Greats," a 
Craven Fellowship, and the Arnold Historical Essay Prize. 

Former students of women's societies also collected distinctions. In 
1923 Ivy Williams, of the Home Students, became the first Oxford 
woman to be awarded the D.C.L., and in 1928 Mrs Eastwood, also 
a Home Student, was Oxford's first woman Doctor of Medicine. 
Rose Graham, of Somerville, became in 1929 the second Oxford 
woman to be awarded the D.Litt., and in the same year the Rhodes 
Trustees elected Margery Perham, of St Hugh's, to a travelling 

Many women undergraduates of this decade were destined to win 
national reputations. At Oxford, now that all the constellations were 
larger, these stars shone less conspicuously than the lone beacons of 
previous generations. 

The Lady Margaret Hall Register between 1921 and 1930 contains 
the names of Mary Guillan Smieton (later Dame), the eminent 
Civil Servant who rose to be Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of 
Education in 1959; Gertrude Eileen Trevelyan, the short-lived first 
woman (she died in 1941) actually to win the Newdigate Prize 9 ; 
Rosalie Glynn Grylls, afterwards Lady Mander and the author of 
books on eighteenth-century writers; Margaret Rawlings, later a 
well-known actress, who stayed only for a year; Elizabeth Harman, 
the elegant and vital converse of the 'typical' blue-stocking, who 
married Lord Pakenham, fought two Parliamentary elections, and 
brought up a family of eight children; the Hon. Margaret Lambert, 
a member of the B.B.C.'s European Division during the Second 

9 Rachel Burton, the daughter of a Canon of Christ Church, surreptitiously entered 
for this prize and 'won* it in the eighteen-thirties. 


World War; C. V. Wedgwood, the future distinguished historian; 
and Nicolette Mary Binyon (Mrs Gray), the daughter of the poet 
Laurence Binyon, who became a writer on art and archaeology and 
organized the first international exhibition of abstract art shown in 

Somerville's equivalent galaxy began to shine in 1920 with Dilys 
Powell, who later joined the editorial staff of the Sunday Times, and 
Sylvia Thompson, subsequently a popular novelist. In 1921 came 
Mary Somerville, afterwards the B.B.C. Controller of the Talks 
Division. Other conspicuous students included two future civil ser- 
vants who achieved fame as Dame Alix Kilroy and Dame Evelyn 
Sharp; both took Seconds, the one in Modern "Greats" and the 
other in Modern History. 

After them came several daughters of famous men: Lady Helen 
Asquith, whose father was Raymond Asquith; Eglantyne Roden 
Buxton, Sonia Hambourg, Katharine Trevelyan, Eirene Lloyd Jones, 
and Sheila MacDonald, who were respectively the daughters of 
Charles Roden Buxton, Mark Hambourg, Sir Charles Trevelyan, 
Thomas Jones, C. H., and Ramsay MacDonald. 

All these young women became well known in their subsequent 
careers, but Eirene Jones won especial distinction by becoming, as 
Eirene White, Somerville's second Member of Parliament. 

At St Hugh's a future novelist and biographer, Margaret Lane 
(afterwards the Countess of Huntingdon), was in residence during 
this decade. Her contemporary Mary Challans, who went to live in 
South Africa, subsequently became a well-known novelist, whose 
books include The King Must Die and The Last of the Wine. 

From St Hilda's an Indian undergraduate of 1921, Kamala Sircar, 
later Mrs Chatter jee, was destined to play an important role during 
the nineteen-thirties in the All-India Women's Conference, which 
helped to prepare the way for Gandhi's Civil Disobedience Cam- 
paign and the independence of India. To the same College in 1926 
came Helen Louise Gardner, an English Scholar who took the Final 
Honours School in 1929, and after lectureships at Holloway and 
Birmingham returned, as the author of many scholarly articles and 
commentaries, to become St Hilda's Tutor in English Literature in 

The Home Students of the decade contributed another Indian, 
S. Ajgaonkar, who obtained the new degree of D.PhiL by a thesis on 
"The Social and Legal Position of Women in Ancient India"; Mrs 



Cheridah Stocks, who won a B.Sc. degree by a study o the Lapchas 
of Sikhim in spite of being partially crippled by an aeroplane acci- 
dent before she came to Oxford ; and Makareti (Mrs Staples Brown), 
a Maori princess married to an Englishman, who studied Anthro- 
pology under Dr Marett. She had almost finished a history of the 
manners and customs of her people when she died suddenly, and Mr 
T. K. Penniman, Secretary to the Committee of Anthropology, 
edited and published her work. 

In 1928 the Principal of St Hilda's, Miss Winifred Moberly, died, 
like Miss Jourdain, while still in office. During her last three years 
she had struggled bravely against persistent insomnia, and had thus 
been unable to make much impact on the college, but in its unspec- 
tacular fashion it had none the less prospered. After the War its 
numbers had risen from forty-nine to seventy, and compelled the 
further extensions of which the new South Hall formed the main 
part. Like the other societies, it received the Government grant of 
^Tiooo a year, which represented a substantial benefit to a small 

The Council now appointed a new Principal, who was to remain 
for twenty-seven years, and with quiet tenacity to raise the college to 
a position in the university much more significant than she found. 
Julia de Lacy Mann had studied "Honour Mods." and "Greats" at 
Somerville from 1910 to 1914. After working at the Admiralty and 
the Foreign Office during the First World War she returned to 
Somerville in 1919 to take an Economics Diploma with Distinction. 

In 1923 she became Economics Tutor at St Hilda's, and spent the 
rest of her academic life there. From 1927 to 1934 she was Assistant 
Editor of the Economic Historical Review^ but the development of 
St Hilda's was her life's great achievement. When she handed over 
to her successor, Kathleen Major, in 1955 the college had approxi- 
mately 180 undergraduates. Her portrait in St Hilda's dining-hall 
faithfully reproduces the serenity of her expression, but fails to con- 
vey her unusual height. 

A year after the change at St Hilda's, Miss Burrows retired as 
Principal of the Home Students. Her last year had been momentous 
for the Society, since an offer, comparable to Miss Mordan's gifts to 
St Hugh's, unexpectedly came from an anonymous donor who 
offered to provide the Society with central buildings when sufficient 
private funds had accumulated. The benefactress later proved to be 


Mrs Amy G. Hartland, of Chepstow, the American-born third 
daughter of Charles Manley Smith, an eminent lawyer. 

In her History of St Anne's Society Ruth Butler, Senior Tutor and 
Vice-Principal of the Home Students between 1925 and 1941, has 
described the origin of the mysterious gift as revealed in a letter to 
Miss Burrows from Miss Mann. The future Principal of St Hilda's 
had chanced to be present when Mrs Hartland and her husband, 
Ernest Hartland, M.A., of Merton College, had come to see Miss 
Mann's uncle, then the Warden of Merton, in the autumn of 1927. 
Next day Mrs Hardand called on her, lamented her own lack of a 
university education, and announced that she had put aside a sum 
for founding a women's college, or scholarships which would carry 
her name. 

Owing to that year's "Limitation Statute" a new college for 
women could not be established, and Miss Mann mentioned the 
need of the Home Students for college buildings. Her suggestion, so 
soon to be followed in 1929 by the creation of the Hardand Trust, 
strengthened the link already existing between the Home Students 
and her own college. 

Miss Burrows departed to care for her ageing mother at their small 
house in Merton Street, and in her place came Grace Hadow. Since 
Miss Hadow' s departure from Lady Margaret Hall for the Ministry 
of Munitions in 1917 her connexion with the Women's Institutes, 
followed by her Secretaryship at Barnett House, 10 had made her 
like her near-contemporary Eglantyne Jebb, co-founder of the Save 
the Children Fund, who died just before Grace Hadow's appoint- 
ment as Principal better known for social than for academic work. 

With "humorous tolerance" she now accepted a period of tuition 
by the forceful Annie Rogers on the relationship between the Home 
Students and the university. Only a devoted and remarkable woman 
would have agreed to exchange a comfortable and useful post for this 
most difficult of Oxford headships, with its responsibility for 220 
undergraduates living in scattered households. 

In July 1929 Grace Hadow's former college celebrated its Jubilee, 
and brought to an appropriate close the half-century which had seen 
the women at Oxford move from bare toleration through unofficial 

10 Founded at Oxford in 1914 on the initiative of Bishop Bell, of Chichester, as a 
memorial to Canon Barnett, who established Toynbee Hall Settlement in London. 
It was intended as a social and economic centre of information. When Grace Hadow 
became Secretary in 1920 she made it the nucleus of educational developments in 
rural Oxfordshire. 


recognition to a security which the temporary check of 1927 would 
not long impair. At the Jubilee Service in the University Church on 
June 7 Dr Selbie declared that the Christian ideal of women was for 
the first time reaching realization: "through the sufferings of earlier 
generations of women they have achieved freedom." 

The previous evening five hundred guests, over whom Miss Fry 
presided, represented every Somerville generation from the first. 
They listened to speeches from Professor Gilbert Murray ; Dr Pember, 
the Warden of All Souls; Maude Thompson, a student of 1879; 
Eleanor Rathbone; Dame Emily Penrose; Miss Fry herself; and the 
Hon. Alice Bruce, the Vice-Principal known to so many college 
generations, who was now retiring after thirty-five years. With Jane 
Willis Kirkaldy, Eleanor Rathbone, and the historian Kate Norgate 
she became one of four Jubilee honorary Fellows of Somerville. 

At the Jubilee garden party Mrs T. H. Green made her last appear- 
ance after forty-five years on the college Council. Three months later 
she died, aged eighty-five, having created from the early overwhelm- 
ing loss of her husband a determination to strengthen the aspiration 
which had moved him and his followers for half a century. 

In her Jubilee article, contributed to The Times and quoted by 
Miss Farnell, Margery Fry defined that aspiration as 

the hunger of learning for its own sake which in every generation 
drives some women, as well as men, to ask for nothing better than to 
reconquer for themselves what has already been known, and to push 
back a little further the boundaries of ignorance. 

Chapter 9: Time of Testing 

minded prophets foresaw the cataclysm which would break upon 
the university from a seemingly clear sky before another term began. 
No such pleasant illusion of tranquillity comforted the generations 
which went up to college between 1930 and 1940. 

From the time that depression, bankruptcy, and unemployment 
put Hitler into power in 1933, and Oswald Mosley challenged 
Oxford with a Fascist meeting at the Town Hall, the shadow 
of the coming conflict lay heavily over both Senior and Junior 
Common Rooms. Repeatedly new crises would start, spin into a 
crescendo, and then, checked for the moment by some change of 
policy on the part of inadequate statesmen, temporarily subside. 
With each brief respite the young man or woman hoping to qualify 
before pandemonium came returned breathlessly but resolutely to 

Both men and women belonged to a less specialized, less romantic, 
and more philosophical generation than their counterparts smitten 
by the First World War. In May 1935 an Oxford Magazine article 
by Dr Phelps, the former Provost of Oriel, analysed the 5588 male 
undergraduates who now awaited the wrath to come. Thanks to 
lavish grants by public bodies, far more carne up from secondary 
schools than in 1913. Hence their conduct had improved, their habits 
were more economical, and they were less interested in party politics 
than in national welfare and religious problems. They were, perhaps, 
as typical of the newly industrialized city, with its roar of traffic and 
perilous streets, as their predecessors had been of secluded bypaths 
and "dreaming spires." 

The steadiness and serenity of the women's colleges throughout 
this turbulent period showed a remarkable contrast to the resound- 
ing upheavals in the outside world. During fifteen years, in which 
the official lives of the colleges were internally uneventful by com- 
parison with the changes and conflicts of the previous decade, only 


two women principals left their posts the one to return to the wider 
community, and the other removed by untimely death. 

From the start o the new pre-War decade, the women heads who 
carried on so quietly amid the symptoms of chaos coming towards 
them from Europe and America had no background of security 
against which to work. In 1931, when economic crisis had spread 
from financial collapse in Central Europe to fill the streets of New 
York with the unemployed of the Great Depression and had then 
reverberated back to Britain, the university suffered, and the 
women's colleges suffered with it. 

"It is impossible/* warned the Somerville Report for 193132, "to 
foresee the effect upon the College of the nation's financial diffi- 

Surprisingly, the contingent of undergraduates was little, if at all, 
affected; five years later an article on the British universities 1 gave 
the number of women at Oxford as 876, compared with 507 at Cam- 
bridge. But their concerns were different from those of the past, and 
changed still more as the dark decade moved on. By 1937 the under- 
graduates at both Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall were volun- 
teering to eat a weekly bread-and-cheese lunch in order to contribute 
the difference in cost from their normal meal to the distressed areas. 

In her last Preface, written when the shadow of a future which she 
would not share was already falling upon Oxford and England, 
Elizabeth Wordsworth had written: "What, we ask, will the next 
half century bring? The question naturally arises in one's mind: 
Are there any 'things that cannot be shaken' and will remain? " 

The consciousness of being one's brother's or sister's keeper was 
apparently one of those "things." 

It may well have been the knowledge of decisions waiting to be 
made which would affect the welfare of millions of modest homes 
that finally took Margery Fry back from the peace of Oxford to the 
turmoil of London. She resigned at the end of the Hilary term 1931; 
the Somerville College Report for that year insisted that she had 
never intended to retain her post for long. 

"That we failed to keep her [in Oxford] is, one feels, no credit to 
ourselves," bluntly commented the Principal of St Hugh's in her 
current College Letter. But the implicit criticism may well have been 

1 Oxford Magazine, May 28, 1936. In the country as a whole women students 
numbered 12,232, out of a total student body of 50,638. This meant one woman to 
leather more than three men. Oxford had approximately one woman to every five 
men; Cambridge one woman to every ten. 


unjustified; probably no college council in Oxford could have per- 
suaded Miss Fry to change her mind when once she had decided to 
resign. At Somerville she had found it possible to set aside a sum for 
research, and by the consolidation and adaptation of existing build- 
ings to make room for more senior members. Rut, acknowledged the 
Oxford Magazine, "the strongest stimulus is that of her vivifying 
and untrammelled personality. She has an inexhaustible gift for 
realizing undergraduates, and other persons, as human beings." 

Miss Fry's successor, Helen Darbishire, had spent most of her life 
in Oxford; only a visiting lectureship at Holloway College and the 
post of visiting Professor at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, had 
carried her away from 1904 to 1907 and in 1925-26. Between 1908 and 
1935 she had been Somerville's Tutor in English, and now, until 
1945, became its Principal. In the university she held a Lecture- 
ship in English Literature, and was the first woman to be appointed 
the Chairman of a Faculty Board. 

This distinguished literary specialist, shy, modest, and sensitive, 
who had published scholarly works in beautiful English on Milton 
and Wordsworth, must indeed have found hard and even uncon- 
genial the pedestrian but inexorable routine of an administrator at a 
leading women's college. Just how much reluctance she may have 
had to overcome is perhaps unintentionally revealed in her Somer- 
ville portrait, painted in 1939 by William Coldstream in a modern style 
which is startling by contrast with its more conventional neighbours. 

This picture, which did not find favour with the college when it 
was first displayed, shows Miss Darbishire in a black gown and 
crimson hood over a blue dress; apart from Mary Somerville, she is 
the only personality not wearing black. Her rounded face and neck 
and contemplative blue eyes are seen beneath an abundance of fair 
hair turning grey. 

Here, in fact, is neither an administrator nor a matron nor a 
politician nor a glorified bursar; the stranger would guess that the 
portrait presented an artist or a poetess rather than a don. This is no 
doubt exactly what it did. Shortly after her appointment Miss Darbi- 
shire received the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize from the British 
Academy for her edition of the manuscript of Paradise Lost, Book I. 

Another winner of this prize, Mary Madge Lascelles, a Scholar of 
Lady Margaret Hall and a specialist in the works of Jane Austen 
and Samuel Johnson, came to Somerville as English Tutor in the 
year that Miss Darbishire began her Principalship. 


For all its genuine pride in its scholars, whether men or women, 
the Oxford of the nineteen-thirties found itself perpetually involved 
in the political world of challenging events and controversial prin- 
ciples to which Miss Fry had returned. In 1931 Mahatma Gandhi, in 
England to attend the Round Table Conference, came to Oxford to 
stay for a week-end with A. D. Lindsay, the Master of Balliol. Two 
years later D. F. Karaka, who was to write Gandhi's life, became 
the first Indian President of the Union. 

Another leading pacifist, Dr Albert Schweitzer, visited Lady Mar- 
garet Hall in 1932, in return for a term spent by Margaret Deneke, 
the College Choirmaster, as his secretary at Lambarene, in French 
Equatorial Africa. Opinions such as his found many supporters in 
the sensational "King and Country" debate at the Union in Febru- 
ary I933, 2 and more qualified approval during the later controversy 
over the Peace Ballot. 

The women who discussed in their societies these fiercely argued 
questions soon found their values endorsed or their conclusions chal- 
lenged by the confirmation, in the German elections one month after 
the famous debate, of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of the 
Reich. Almost at once began the influx of refugee scholars for whom 
the women's colleges, like the men's, were to be gravely concerned. 
On October 21, 1933, an important public meeting in Rhodes House, 
with Professor J. L. Brierly as chairman, considered projects for their 
relief. During the next few years many distinguished Europeans, 
both men and women, were welcomed at Oxford. 

The scholars helped by the women's colleges included Frau 
Doktor Margarete Bieber, dismissed from her professorship at 
Giessen University; Frau Doktor Leubuscher, formerly Professor of 
Economics in the University of Berlin; Frau Baumgartel, a dis- 
tinguished Egyptologist; and a scientific specialist, Fraiilein Brigitte 
Wolff, for many years Technical Assistant in the Cancer Research 
Institute at the Charite Hospital in Berlin. 

2 A subsequent article in The Times described this debate as "The Children's 
Hour." A unusual number of votes, 428, were cast, and the motion, "That this 
House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country/* was won by 275 
votes to 153. The vote represented a serious expression of opinion, though typical 
of the Union rather than of Oxford. C. E. M. Joad, who spoke for the motion 
against a talented ex-President, Quintin Hogg (kter Lord Hailsham), made chiefly 
the point that war between European nations with modern arms would be so dis- 
astrous that non-violent resistance (the Gandhian technique) would be the better 
course a position which Commander Stephen King-Hall was to adopt a quarter 
of a century kter in his book Defence m the Nuclear Age. 


Just before these sinister echoes from Europe heralded the advent 
of a tormented era, three well-known Oxford women of an older 
epoch had passed from the scene. 

In October 1932 occurred the death of Jane Willis Kirkaldy, the 
Somerville student of 1887 who became tutor to the A.E.W. for all 
women reading Natural Science, and at later dates was appointed 
tutor or lecturer to each of the women's societies in turn. During 
1930 her failing health obliged her to abandon this strenuous teaching 
career. Her whole heart had been in her work, and her life ended 
with it. 

The following December a younger woman than Miss Kirkaldy, 
Professor Elizabeth Levett, died suddenly in London. A fearless, 
disinterested critic and a first-rate teacher of sterling honesty, she had 
been Professor of History at Westfield College only since 1929. 

Between the two events Dame Elizabeth Wordsworth's long life 
finally ended, in her ninety-third year, on St Andrew's Day, Novem- 
ber 30, 1932. Only the previous January, in a review of her collected 
Poems and Plays y the Oxford Magazine had quoted a short epigram- 
matic verse called "Good and Clever." Addressed to her friend 
Benjamin Jowett, it had stated a perennial social problem: 

But somehow 'tis seldom or never 

The two hit it off as they should; 

The good are so harsh to the clever, 

The clever so rude to the good. 

Though Dame Elizabeth had never attempted to disguise her 
personal preference for "the good," her life had been dedicated to 
the reconciliation of these frequently incompatible qualities. At col- 
lege, wrote K. A. Esdaile in The Times, "we laughed at her, we 
laughed with her, we loved her; what better epitaph could strength 
and sweetness have? " 

At her funeral service the whole university, for the first time in its 
history, came together at St Mary's Church to honour a woman. 

Perhaps because the times were so grave both Lady Margaret Hall 
and Somerville gave much consideration to the new chapels which 
each acquired during the nineteen-thirties. 

Dame Elizabeth had lived just long enough to see the foundation 
stone of the Lady Margaret Hall chapel laid, as part of the new 
Deneke building, by the founder of the college, Bishop Talbot, whose 
own long life ended in February 1934. The Vicar of St Mary's, the 


Rev. F, R. Barry, drew up the service for the chapel's foundation, 
and the silver trowel handed to the Bishop by the architect, Sir Giles 
Gilbert Scott, bore the inscription "In God's hand is all understand- 
ing and all acquaintance with divers crafts." 

On January 14, 1933, a year before his death, Bishop Talbot dedi- 
cated the chapel. Two years afterwards the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, Dr Cosmo Gordon Lang, himself dedicated the organ, lectern, 
and ornaments of the altar and sanctuary. A legacy from Mrs Arnold 
Toynbee, who died in 1931, made possible the completion of the 

Lady Margaret Hall was the first women's college to build a 
chapel of proper ecclesiastical form, shaped like a Greek cross in the 
Byzantine style. This achievement was largely due to the fund earned 
by the musical tours of its Choirmaster, Margaret Deneke, in the 
United States. Through Miss Deneke came a series of gifts from 
Mrs Edward S. Harkness, of New York, who in 1930 presented the 
substantial sum of ^35,000 towards the extension of the college's now 
crowded premises. By her own request the new building, of multi- 
coloured brick with a tone predominantly grey, was called "Deneke" 
"after those who worked for it and not after those who merely 
gave money." 

At this period Somerville College was still holding its undenomina- 
tional services in the dining-hall after the hurried clearing of Sunday- 
night supper. 3 But the decade had become a chapel-conscious epoch, 
and in 1933 the Council accepted from an anonymous donor 
identified after her death in 1939 as its peripatetic former student 
Emily G. Kemp a large sum to erect a building "for religious 

At once controversy broke out. Though the Principal felt that the 
bequest "would enrich the College's spiritual life," many ardent 
rationalists among Somerville's senior members saw it as a challenge 
to their cherished non-sectarian traditions. The proposal was much 
less popular than the suggestion for a "friendly alliance" with 
Girton, made the previous year. 

After prolonged discussion, not wholly free from acrimony, the 
Council agreed that the chapel should be dedicated, not consecrated, 
and that the dedication should be made by the Principal, who would 
be responsible, with the Fellows, for conducting the services. When 
the building of Clipsham stone, displacing a favourite row of poplars 
3 Always known as "nonde" (short for "nondescript"). 


growing at right angles to the Maidand Building, finally reached 
completion in February 1935 both the Principal and the Vice- 
Principal, Maude Clarke, were absent owing to illness, and the much- 
discussed dedication ceremony fell to the Dean, Vera Farnell. 

In her memoirs o Somerville she reminded her readers that Miss 
Kemp had dreamed of this chapel as a symbol of Universal Brother- 
hood. She went on to record that Its austere light-panelled interior, 
designed, like the organ case, by Mr Courtenay Theobald, had 
offered no threat to the religious freedom of the college, but merely 
formed a more fitting background for its communal prayers than the 
rattle of crockery and the lingering odours of a meal. 

Two years earlier Somerviile's lovely East Quadrangle had been 
opened, more gloriously because less controversially, by the new 
Chancellor, Lord Halifax, who had been elected to this office after 
the death of Lord Grey of Fallodon, Lord Cave's successor. With 
especial skill the architect, Mr Morley Horder, not only fitted his 
design into the restricted space between the Radcliffe Infirmary and 
the Church and Presbytery of St Aloysius, but actually improved the 
angular grimness of Somerville' s Catholic neighbour. 

To make room for the new quadrangle some time-honoured but 
dilapidated features of Somerville architecture the Cottage, the 
Gatehouse, and the former "Waggon and Horses" with its bar- 
parlour which provided a fortunate student with a grandstand view 
of St Giles suffered an overdue disappearance. 

The Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville Registers contain the 
names of the contemporary undergraduates who attended the new 
chapels. A quarter of a century is seldom sufficient for the permanent 
establishment of prestige, and from 1930 it becomes more difficult to 
select the owners of future reputations from the college lists. One 
Lady Margaret Hall student from whom some special achievement 
might have been expected, Diana, the daugher of H. J. Laski, chose 
marriage rather than a career soon after going down in 1938. Her 
near contemporary, Leah Norah Beloff, became a news reporter for 
Reuters in 1945, and later a Special Correspondent for The Observer. 

At Somerville Mary Laetitia Somerville Fisher, the daughter of 
H. A. L. Fisher, O.M., came up in 1931 with Margaret Christian 
Garnett (later Mrs Douglas Jay) and Anne Scott-James. In 1935 
Barbara Mary Ward, the possible owner of a lasting name, took 
First-class Honours in Modern "Greats"; she became an Assistant 
Editor of the Economist and later a Governor of the B.B.C. 


During the same year Jenifer Williams obtained the third place 
among the fifty successful candidates for the Administrative Class of 
the Home Civil Service a feat never previously equalled by a 
woman in this hardest of competitive examinations. 

In 1936 another Laski Esther Pearl Marghanita, the daughter of 
Neville J. Laski, Q.C. went down to begin a successful career as 
novelist and critic, ably combined with marriage. A year later 
Margaret Stanley- Wrench simultaneously won the Newdigate Prize 
and published a novel. Indira Nehru, the daughter of Jawaharlal 
Nehru and later Mrs Gandhi, who became President of the Indian 
Congress in 1959, was briefly her contemporary. 

Among past students several well-known names from both Junior 
and Senior Common Rooms again 'made news.' In 1933 Somerville 
and Lady Margaret Hall respectively conferred Fellowships on Rose 
Graham and Barbara Hammond. University Lectureships went to 
Maude Clarke (Modern History) and to Evelyn E. S. Proctor 
(Mediaeval European History) in 1933. Two years later Hilda Lori- 
mer read a paper on "Temple and Statue Cult in Homer" for the 
Classical Association before a distinguished audience at the Ash- 
molean, and Margery Perham, of St Hugh's, became University 
Research Lecturer in Colonial Administration. In 1936 K. M. Lea 
became Lady Margaret Hall Tutor in English Literature, and after- 
wards the college's Vice-Principal. A year later Mary Coate and 
Kathleen Chesney, later Principal of Westfield College, London, 
became University Lecturers respectively in Seventeenth-century 
English History and in French. 

Crowning all these achievements had come, in 1934, the appoint- 
ment of Mildred Pope to the Chair of Romance Philology in the 
University of Manchester after forty years at Somerville, 

Meanwhile a new preoccupation was growing up in the Junior 
Common Rooms with both undergraduate morals and the position 
of university women. 

On May 25, 1933, the Union devoted an evening to the theme 
"That this House has no use for conventional morality," and the 
seconder, B. A. Farrell, of Balliol, related the story of "a Principal 
of a Ladies' College" who, on being told that the river was a com- 
pletely moral place, responded, "Perhaps, but there are always the 
creeps, you know." He went on to attack the outlook on sex of the 
senior members of the university, both men and women. 


Two years later the writer of a note on "Chaperons" in the Oxford 
Magazine was commending the recent amendment of the rules con- 
cerning the entertainment of college women in the rooms of male 
undergraduates, "since there are always good reasons for altering 
laws that are not enforced." Twelve months afterwards, in the third 
of a series of articles on British universities in the same publication, 
"D.W.B.," a senior member, attempted a responsible summary of 
the problem : 

The young men and young women are not going to spend their 
lives here, and we make it difficult for them to learn a very important 
part of human behaviour, how to conduct oneself in relation to the 
opposite sex. We isolate the problem, give it more thought than it is 
worth, enact regulations which, if they are effective, postpone till a 
later age adjustments which have to be made some time and somehow. 
The world is not now a world of chaperons, of perfect vigilance; that 
may be a pity . . . but it is a fact a fact to which Oxford closes its eyes. 

In 1937 a book called Oxford Unlimited,, by Keith Briant, repeated 
some traditional aspersions, and drew an indignant published letter 
from "Woman Undergraduate 193336." Normal friendships be- 
tween men and women were not only condoned but encouraged, she 
insisted; the "unpleasant relationships" described by Mr Briant and 
emphasized by the Press did not occur among college women, who 
respected the now reasonable discipline imposed by their societies. 

Wherever the elusive truth might lie, the old dislike and fear of 
women had gone or was going among the men, both seniors and 
juniors. In 1934 some radical proposals for "the reform of under- 
graduate status," emanating from the University Labour Club and 
described in The New Oxford Outloo^ included equal status for 
men and women in the university and an end of the limitation on the 
number of women. 

A more practical outcome of the changing spirit took shape in a 
Decree of Congregation, during the Michaelmas term 1934, "to con- 
vert to general uses a laboratory in the Department of Human 
Anatomy which has hitherto been reserved for women students." 
This decree wrote the final epitaph on the incongruous First War 
prudery which had insisted on separate classes for women studying 
medicine. 4 

During the same year, 1934, a limited number of women were 
allowed to take part in the University Operatic Society. In 1935 a 
4 See Chapter 7, page 149. 


decision by the Union to offer their new dining facilities to women 
was reversed by a poll taken at the request of 150 members. The fol- 
lowing year a motion to admit women members of the university to 
debating membership was discussed and lost. In 1938 it was again 
brought forward and again lost "though with less emphasis than 
previously," reported the Oxford Magazine. 

The seniors kept pace with their juniors; in 1937 Grace Hadow, 
widely respected as Principal of the Home Students after nearly a 
decade of successful headship, was elected to the Hebdomadal Coun- 
cil to hold office till I943- 5 No dire results followed such as the elec- 
tion of Miss Grier had precipitated eleven years earlier, when the 
university passed the statute limiting the number of women 

Again the younger colleges were expanding. In 1934 the Burrows 
Building, named after the two first principals and designed in brick 
by Sir Edwin Cooper, had been erected at St Hilda's on the site of 
some former stables to the north of the Old Hall. Its fine new library 
on the ground floor held about 25,000 books; twenty new rooms 
on an upper storey now enabled the college to accommodate 114 
students. The following year St Hilda's became a news item for 
other reasons; a college concession by which its undergraduates were 
allowed to hold "mixed tea-parties'* in their own rooms on Sundays 
received embarrassing attention from the Press. 

In June 1936 St Hugh's celebrated its Jubilee with some new ex- 
tensions. The old Library named after Clara Evelyn Mordari had 
been converted into a large room for important functions, and was 
now known as Mordan Hall. 

At the beginning of the decade the students at St Hugh's had in- 
cluded a young woman named Barbara Betts, who went down in 
1932 after acting for a year as Treasurer of the University Labour 
Club. In the next two decades she was to be better known as Barbara 
Castle, M.P., who won Blackburn for Labour in 1945, and was 
Chairman of that Party in 1959. 

During the same year that Barbara Betts took her Finals Dr Joan 
Evans, already a D.Litt. of London, received a D.Litt. from Oxford 
University. In 1933, to honour her work in Archaeology, St Hugh's 
gave her a dinner in London at the Savoy Hotel. 

Neither graduate was precisely typical of the college. "When a 
distinguished Head Mistress retires, we are always ready to 'oblige' 
6 She came fourth on the list, -with 195 votes. 


with another," Miss Gwyer announced realistically at St Hugh's 
Gaudy Dinner in 1933. Her College Jubilee letter three years after- 
wards reported the opening o the B.D. and D.D. degrees to women, 
and also recorded that in 1936, for the first time, the five women 
principals had been invited to join the Encaenia Procession. 

The Abdication crisis of that winter preceded the Coronation of 
King George VI in May 1937. ^ Be Oxford Magazine described 
Oxford's festival decorations as having "little coherence" in design, 
but stressed the loveliness of the floodlit Ashmolean and Magdalen 
Tower. The Coronation almost coincided with the statute which 
established Nuffield College as the university's " instrument of re- 
search" in Social Studies and a college for graduate students. Miss 
Grier sat on the committee which set in motion the preliminary 
arrangements, and the first six Faculty Fellows included Margery 
Perham, who had recently published her specialist study, Native 
Administration in Nigeria. 

On November 17, 1935, Somerville mourned the death of Maude 
Clarke, who was in the front rank of the younger Medievalists but, 
owing to illness, had been unable to contribute her volume on the 
fourteenth century to the new Oxford history of England. 6 As a 
Fellow of the College since 1922 she had been appointed a University 
Lecturer in 1930, and became Somerville's Vice-Principal, in succes- 
sion to Professor Pope, the year before her death. 

She died at her home in Northern Ireland, where from her father's 
vicarage at Carnmoney she could see the mountains which over- 
looked the glen sloping down to the sea. One of her favourite stu- 
dents, May McKisack, succeeded her as History Tutor, and the 
Maude Violet Clarke Fund for historical research was later estab- 
lished at Somerville in her memory. 

Less than two months before her death another of her most bril- 
liant students, Winifred Holtby, had died at an even earlier age. 
She had barely finished her last and most famous book, South 
Riding, which was published posthumously and won the James Tait 
Black Memorial Prize for the best novel of 1936. Without expecting 
to make much from the manuscripts that she was obliged to leave un- 
published, she bequeathed the proceeds of her posthumous works to 
Somerville "for scholarships." 

Within the next two decades her novel earned 10,000 for scholar- 
* This task was subsequently assumed by her successor May McKisack* 


ships and grants. It thus became one o the relatively few important 
endowments given by an Oxford woman graduate to her college. 

Six months after Maude Clarke died, her former tutor, Eleanor 
Lodge, now Principal of Westfield College, succumbed to a long ill- 
ness at the age of sixty-six. The following year the death of another 
good friend of women, as untimely as that of Maude Clark, occurred 
when a sudden heart-attack carried off Professor J. L. Stocks just 
after he had given an address to extra-mural students at Swansea. 
Only that spring he had left his Oxford chair to be Vice-Chancellor 
of Liverpool University. 

Later in 1937 two stalwart Oxford women associated especially 
with St Hugh's departed in the fullness of time. 

The first, Miss Moberly, died in August at the age of ninety, having 
survived all but two of her fourteen brothers and sisters. She lived 
just long enough to see her privately printed study of the Book of 
Revelation serialized in a quarterly publication, The Church and the 
Jews. In the Bodleian Library she deposited all the papers relating to 
the Adventure and its publication, "there to await the day," dis- 
creetly wrote the author of her Oxford Magazine obituary, "which 
shall define with accuracy the extent of their contribution to scientific 

To the end of her life Miss Moberly had kept the handful of beech- 
nuts over which her fingers had unconsciously closed when she sat 
under a tree on the outskirts of Salisbury wondering whether to 
accept Miss Wordsworth's offer of the Principalship of St Hugh's, 
and heard a "voice" in her spiritual consciousness bid her "go on." 
She had also, amid increasing physical weakness, retained the Chris- 
tian philosophy which had sustained her through much adversity. 
To a friend she had written in those final days: "Fortunately neither 
books nor necessary needlework make one's life, and I have a long 
retrospect and unknown anticipations to fill my mind." 

The Times printed its substantial obituary notice under the head- 
ing "Miss Anne Moberly." "Annie" had gone. She might, indeed, 
have gone for ever had not Lucille Iremonger, with her photographs, 
belatedly revived her. 

The following November, on a dark rainy night, Annie Rogers 
was crossing St Giles on her way to a meeting of the Archaeological 
Society when she met with an accident, and died early next morning 
without recovering consciousness. 

For fifty-one years "a character," commented the Oxford Maga- 


zine, "who will remain a legend when most of her contemporaries 
are forgotten " she had been a member of the governing body of the 
Home Students, and for forty-six years had sat on St Hugh's Council. 
Unlike Margery Fry and Grace Hadow, she had never been at- 
tracted by a wider sphere of service; for her Oxford had meant ful- 
filment. In her last decade "a more or less contented Cincinnatus," 
remarked a colleague she made the garden at St Hugh's her chief 
concern. Still full of health and energy, she continued to ride her 
bicycle till she was well over seventy through the hazardous streets 
between her home and the college. 

"Her relation to the plants and shrubs was personal and in- 
dividual/' wrote the contributor to the Magazine's "Notes and 
News," "and they responded well to her affection . . . Very few who 
had been shown round the garden of St Hugh's, and left with a 
promise to fill some gap in return for some spare cuttings, can have 
dreamed that she was eighty-one." 

Year after year this garden, with its famous terrace, had blazed 
into brilliant beauty beneath her dexterous and despotic hands. The 
college created for her the dignified office of "Gustos Hortulorum." 

For this new interest Miss Rogers had even postponed the compila- 
tion of her history Degrees by Degrees, which friends and relatives 
put together from her papers after her death. Perhaps she resembled 
other dons, both at Oxford and elsewhere, whose high standard 
of perfection prevents them from ever bringing a work to completion, 
and thus compels lesser men and women to confront the accusations 
of superficiality, inaccuracy, and prejudice which publication norm- 
ally brings. Silence alone preserves the legend of impeccability and 
omniscience a fact which Annie Rogers doubtless realized. 

Nothing in her well-documented life leaves any clue to her atti- 
tude towards the 'Adventure' of St Hugh's first two principals. It 
seems probable that, not being given to flights of fantasy, she found 
a kindred spirit in the third. There is a note of real affection in the 
brief memoir which Miss Gwyer contributed to Degrees by Degrees 
of the argumentative, intelligent colleague who with such determina- 
tion had moved the women's colleges onward from "girls' school 
government" to a worthier status. 

The university eventually commemorated her, in 1939, by laying 
out a garden designed by Herbert Buckland on the north side of St 
Mary's Church, where she had worshipped. St Hugh's enlarged and 
repaired the central semicircle of the terrace, and there placed in 



her memory a fine old sundial raised on a plinth. Beneath her name 
and dates it carried an inscription composed by Professor J. L. 
Myres, 7 a member of the college Council: "Floribus, Anna, tuis 
faveat sol luce perenni." ("Anna, may the sun favour thy flowers 
with perpetual light") 

These well-known Oxford characters escaped much distress which 
their colleagues had now to face. In its issue of 1938-39 the Somer- 
ville College Report announced: 

As this report goes to Press, the College is able to record with satis- 
faction and relief that after a period of anxiety and doubt caused by the 
international situation in September, it was possible for the new term 
to begin on the date arranged. 

But the respite from anxiety was only brief. Trench-digging and 
the assembling of gas-masks at all the colleges followed the Munich 
crisis. In the Hilary term of 1939, by a tragic coincidence, a visitor to 
Lady Margaret Hall, Mrs Elstob, gave a moving talk about Spanish 
relief on the day that Barcelona fell. 

Retiring in 1939, with a reluctance that may well be imagined, 
from forty-three years as Somerville's Tutor in Classics and five as 
their Lady Carlisle Research Fellow, Hilda Lorimer must have con- 
fronted the swift approach of stern events with the sad realization that 
she would soon be too old for active war- work. 8 But to many mem- 
bers of the university the final outbreak of war after the long period 
of tension at least brought an end to suspense, and it soon became 
clear that the new conflict would not devastate and deplete Oxford 
like that of 1914. This time no headlong rush of "the eloquent, the 
young, the beautiful and brave" emptied the colleges; the National 
Service Acts prevented that heroic but unbiological self-immolation. 

The age of enlistment was no longer eighteen, and passage through 
the ranks had become a recognized system. This new routine meant 
that the freshmen coming into residence during the war years were 
hardly fewer than in 1938, though one year was usually the maximum 

7 Sir John Linton Myres, O.B.E., F.B.A., Wykeham Professor of Ancient History, 
became a member of the St Hugh's Council in 1924, when his help was of great 
value to the recovery of the college from the crisis of that year. He remained on the 
Council till 1951, when the constitution of the college was changed by statute, and 
membership limited to the Principal and Fellows. He died, aged eighty-four, in 1954. 

8 She nevertheless trained, at the age of sixty-seven, as an A.R.P. incident officer 
in both Oxford and Southampton, and carried out her duties with zest and 


expectation, for men, of academic life before the call to service. The 
women were not now a conspicuous and sad majority; the total 
undergraduate strength remained over 50 per cent, of the normal 
numbers, and 1700 men still resided in Oxford by 1943. 

This time, too, everybody was 'in it,' threatened alike by bombs 
and soon by invasion. With the change of military methods, the 
bitter First War distinctions between soldiers and civilians, and men 
and women, virtually disappeared. 

The need for university teachers continued much as usual, and 
the Vice-Chancellor, Dr G. S. Gordon, President of Magdalen, 
warned would-be patriots against "besieging the doors of ministries. 7 ' 
Ten colleges were reserved entirely for male undergraduates, and 
all except three retained some accommodation, though most of them 
had to house members of Government departments. One ancient 
institution partially taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture and 
Fisheries acquired the new name of "Fish and Chips." 

Among the women's colleges, where almost all the undergradu- 
ates returned on the outbreak of war, the major disturbance occurred 
at St Hugh's. Except for two detached houses, all the college's build- 
ings, like those of Somerville in the First World War, were requisi- 
tioned by the War Office for use as a military hospital this time 
for head injuries. The handsome new buildings, like all dwellings 
acquired for military use, were doomed to six years of increasing 
dilapidation, and huts sprang up to desecrate the beautiful garden 
which had been Annie Rogers's pride. Many fruit-trees in the 
orchard were totally destroyed by the end of the War. 

The huts stayed on the college's main lawn until 1951. To save 
them from the post- War epidemic of squatters St Hugh's offered 
them to the university as offices, and the office-holders promptly de- 
veloped the limpet-like qualities of their tribe. 

Reluctantly but philosophically, the greater part of the college 
moved to Holywell Manor and Savile House, hostels belonging to 
Balliol and New College respectively. A few students went to St 
Hilda's, and five further houses were finally required. For over half 
a decade Miss Gwyer and her tutors worked against heavy odds to 
retain the spirit of unity so relentlessly disrupted by war's demands. 

Much intellectual progress also came to a standstill; on the out- 
break of war all appointments to University Lectureships, of which 
St Hugh's would have provided four, were suspended. As some small 
compensation the college's Assistant Tutor in Science, Miss M. G. 


Adam, became Acting Director of the Oxford Observatory after the 
Director, Professor Plaskett, had joined up. Five years later she 
created a precedent by becoming the first woman Member of the 
Council of the Astronomical Society. 

Again though this time it was able to preserve its identity the 
proximity of the Radcliffe Infirmary brought Somerville a measure of 
alien occupation, after the Ministry of Health had threatened to 
requisition the whole as an annexe to the hospital. By a compromise 
the West Building was taken over for the Radcliffe' s nurses, while 
the Sub-Dean of the hospital and some medical students occupied five 
rooms in its south-east corner which immediately became known as 
"the Isle of Man." 

The evacuation of Westfield College, London, with Mrs J. L. 
Stocks as the new Principal, from Hampstead to St Peter's Hall 
brought 157 students and a staff of 17 to swell the numbers of the 
women at Oxford. Future girl artists were also included among the 
Slade School students evacuated from University College, Gower 
Street, to the Ruskin School of Drawing at the Ashmolean. 

During the first winter of the War an unexpected blow descended 
upon the Society of Home Students through the sudden death of their 
Principal, Grace Hadow. During 1938 she had received two invita- 
tions to tour the world as a speaker. One arrived from the Royal 
Institute of International Affairs, which asked her to be a delegate to 
a Conference on British Commonwealth Relations at Sydney in 
September of that year. The other came from the American Federa- 
tion of University Women, which suggested that she should under- 
take a lecture tour to raise money for the Home Students' Building 
Endowment Fund. She agreed to fit the two engagements together, 
and obtained leave for the Michaelmas term. 

Following the Commonwealth Conference, she landed in the 
United States on October 4, just after the Munich crisis, and found 
herself deluged by invitations "to explain England to America." Her 
tour acquired national proportions instead of being just a series of 
addresses to women's colleges, though in six weeks she spoke at 
twenty-three between New England and the Deep South. 

Ironically enough this effort brought only ^200 in fees for the 
Building Fund, which suggests that, as a stranger, Miss Hadow was 
exploited by voluntary societies. On her way home she stayed with 
Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir in Canada, and by that time was said to 
appear "a shadow of herself in spite of her gaiety." 


When the War came with all its problems, she had not fully re- 
covered from this exhausting assignment. Staying in London for 
the Christmas vacation of 1939-40, she became the too-easy victim of 
a virulent form of pneumonia. After a fortnight's illness she died on 
January 19, 1940, at sixty-four "in the maturity of her powers." The 
historian of St Anne's Society, Ruth Butler, quotes a letter from her 
describing the "strange sense of security and immortality" brought 
by blacked-out Oxford on a moonlit night, which seemed to her 
friends like a final message. 

The Oxford Magazine paid tribute to her as a "magnificent inter- 
preter" of her Society to the world of public affairs, adding that she 
brought back to it, through her swift and noble mind, the knowledge 
that she gained from her wider experience. 

Three months later the Magazine was recording the death in a 
London street accident of another famous Oxford character, the 
Right Hon. H. A. L. Fisher, O.M., aged seventy-five. His wife, 
Lettice Ilbert, had been a Somerville student of 1894, and their 
daughter was an undergraduate of the same College in 1931. 

To succeed Grace Hadow the Council of the Home Students ap- 
pointed the Hon. Eleanor Plumer, a daughter of the First War 
Field-Marshal. Miss Plumer was not an Oxford woman; she had 
belonged to a group of outstanding London students at King's Col- 
lege for Women who took the Oxford Honours School of English 
Literature at a time when outside candidates were allowed to sit for it. 

She had subsequently divided her energies between academic and 
social work as Warden of King's College for Women and of the 
Passmore Edwards Settlement in London. At both these places she 
succeeded Miss H. D. Oakeley, a Somerville student of 189598 who 
had taken a First in "Greats." More recently Miss Plumer had been 
connected with film censorship and problems of women's employ- 
ment. To her new post she brought sound judgment, tireless energy, 
and a keen understanding. 

During her Principalship the Society of Home Students achieved 
the change of name which had been demanded ever since the death 
of Mrs Johnson, to whom the very idea was painful. 

The world outside Oxford still tended to regard the Society as 
providing some glorified form of training in domestic economy a 
notion of maximum inconvenience to graduates seeking scholarly 
posts and so small a proportion of students now lived in their own 
homes that older traditions had no longer to be considered. 


After many alternatives had been put forward the name of St 
Anne's was finally chosen. Ruth Butler explains the choice by stating 
that the name of the Virgin's mother did not indicate an aversion 
to marriage and was well suited to a society which held its corporate 
services in St Mary's Church. Perhaps, she suggests, a half-serious 
allusion to Miss Rogers was also intended. 9 

By 1940 Oxford had become a maelstrom of civil servants and 
London officials, who wresded for pavement space with evacuees 
of all kinds from adjacent danger areas. The university's treasures 
and its finest stained glass had been removed; sandbags cluttered the 
streets and buildings; A.R.P. notices appeared all round the city, 
while circling aeroplanes roared overhead. East End mothers man- 
oeuvred perambulators up and down the turbulent High Street, while 
Carfax resembled Charing Cross in the rush hour. Not a room was 
to be rented in Oxford nor a bed to be hired in a local hotel; the 
Majestic Cinema in the Botley Road had become a gigantic and 
problematical evacuee depot. Each of the women's colleges 'adopted' 
one of the evacuated schools. 

With the approaching fall of France, evacuees and problems alike 
increased, and one Oxford don, Mr K. N. Bell, arranged for a party 
of 125 children and 25 mothers from university families to be re- 
ceived by a group of faculty members at the University of Toronto. 
Yet Oxford still being Oxford Congregation was debating experi- 
mental changes in the Matriculation ceremony on the day of the 
new German thrust towards Paris. At this time of tension the 
harassed city enjoyed almost too much music from first-class con- 
cert performers driven there by dangers and inconveniences else- 

Against such a background, beset by the conflicting claims of war- 
time, the undergraduates at the women's colleges tried to carry on 
their work. The National Service Act of 1942 exempted women 
tutors, many of whom were also Air Raid Wardens, but no woman 
student (other than those studying medicine) was allowed to remain 
in residence after the year in which she became twenty. This regula- 

9 Miss Butler also emphasizes the euphonious Latinized version of the name 
"Societas Sanctae Annae" as compared with that of the former title. She recalls 
that Dr Blakiston, the Vice-Chancellor of 1919-20, who had strongly opposed 
women's degrees, could express his disapproval only when the Latin style of the 
women's societies was submitted to his judgment. He finally gave the Home Students 
& title which read when abbreviated: " Soc. MuL Ox. Priv. Stud." 


tion Involved a two-year course for most women undergraduates, 
though, with special permission (rescinded in 1944), a few came up 
at seventeen and obtained three. Symbolically, a Lady Margaret Hall 
student from 1942 to 1944 was Elizabeth Jacqueline de Gaulle (later 
Mme de Boissieu), the daughter of General Charles de Gaulle. 

In May 1944 an agreement between the Board of Education and the 
Ministry of Labour allowed second-year women to claim a third year 
if they intended to teach. Permission to remain at the university was 
now subject to a certificate of satisfactory progress, and in each of the 
women's colleges a committee set up for the purpose had power to 
submit to the Ministry of Labour the names of students whose work 
or gifts suggested the wisdom of keeping them longer than the 
limits prescribed. But dons and officials did not always agree on 
the value of these qualifications. 

"We sent it [the Ministry] a short list of undergraduates whom 
we thought intelligent, judging by a first in Mods., or some other 
of our rough local criteria/' sardonically commented the Somerville 
College Report for 1941-42, "but it turned them all down. Some 
clearer document of genius is required: perhaps a horoscope." 

The anonymous writer went on to express some well-justified 
anxiety for the future of education : 

Shortened courses can turn out more B.A.'s for less money; parents 

and the State may like to get the taste of dehydrated learning It is 

not so easy to remember that when academic scholarship declines, 
general education cannot keep its level, or to believe how quickly a 
technical tradition can be lost in scholarship as well as in industry. 

During the same year the young women round whom these con- 
flicts eddied volunteered to contribute some of their non-existent spare 
time to the 'war effort' (the idiom which had replaced 'doing your 
bit'). The five Junior Common Rooms of the women's colleges de- 
cided that each member should give a minimum of six hours a week 
to National Service, such as digging, ambulance-driving, nursing, 
First Aid, or child welfare. In one requisitioned college women pro- 
vided the entire A.R.P. personnel, and fire-watching in university 
buildings was shared between the sexes. 10 

10 "Most women spent at least one night a week at this and had some curious 
experiences/* Ruth Butler records in The History of St Anne's Society. These included 
getting a view of Oxford in moonlight from the top of Bodley's tower, and friendly 
darts matches with a 'bulldog* (Proctor's attendant) under the Clarendon Building 
at night. 


Occasionally a phenomenal undergraduate performance created 
a record. One Somerville Scholar, Jean Coutts, became Mrs John 
Austin in March 1941, received injuries in an air raid during April, 
took a First in "Greats" in June, and produced a daughter in Febru- 
ary 1942. 

A number of graduates from all the women's colleges lost their 
lives by 'enemy action.' St Hugh's numbered eight of these casualties, 
subsequently commemorated by a bronze plaque in the college 
chapel. Their names included those of Jean Langlands Whytlaw, 
killed by the blast of a bomb while working with evacuated children 
on the South Coast, and Elsie May Ockendon (Mrs Davies), who 
died in a lifeboat after the shelling of s.s. Rangitane while on her 
way back from escorting children to Australia. 

One Lady Margaret Hall student of 1928, Sheelagh Marguerita 
Griffith, perished in an air crash during 1941 while acting as personal 
assistant to Sir Walter Monckton in the Press and Censorship Divi- 
sion of the Civil Service; her friends founded a Memorial Fund for 
the college as a tribute. From St Hilda's, Helen Campbell Hughes, 
who worked at Bumpus's bookshop, was killed by a bomb in Lon- 
don; and Muriel McKie (Mrs Gregory), who had held various posts 
in public administration before her marriage in 1935, died in a 
Japanese internment camp in Sumatra in 1944. Among the Home 
Students Christine E. M. Ogle, a Second Officer in the W.R.N.S., 
was reported missing at sea. 

Like the death of Somerville's first Principal in 1914, the passing 
of Emily Penrose at eighty-four in February 1942 made little impact 
upon a university dismayed by the Japanese advances in the Far East. 
But her former colleagues remembered, with respect and gratitude, 
the part she had played in an earlier war. 

"She seemed," wrote Miss Darbishire in the Somerville College 
Report, "to stand head and shoulders above those around her." 

In the Oxford Magazine "H.D." also recalled the concentration of 
her powerful intellect upon every duty undertaken; her "unswerving 
rectitude and statesmanlike vision." To her memorial service at 
Somerville on February 7 came a distinguished congregation, which 
included the Vice-Chancellor, the Master of Balliol, Professor Gilbert 
Murray, Mrs H. A. L. Fisher, and Sir William Hale-White. 

A year later she was followed by one of her near contemporaries, 
Edith Elizabeth Wardale, the pioneer philologist, born in 1863. She 


had been St Hugh's tenth student; for fifty years she had served the 
women's societies and especially her own college. When the English 
School became a recognized part of the Second Public Examination 
and began to attract male undergraduates, Miss Wardale was the first 
woman to be appointed one of its examiners and to serve on the board 
of her Faculty. 

She was among the great teachers who had made possible the 
increase in the number of Firsts won by women, which the Oxford 
Magazine noted in a significant table published in its issue of Febru- 
ary 8, 1945. Between 1904 and 1912 the Firsts won in all subjects by 
all the women's societies totalled 72; between 1931 and 1939 they had 
risen to 112. Even the exacting new School of Philosophy, Politics, 
and Economics, which had not existed in the earlier period, made 
little important difference, since in the second period the Firsts won 
by women in this subject amounted only to eight. 

Emoluments, as well as Firsts, were slowly increasing; in Novem- 
ber 1944, the year of the new Education Act, St Hugh's received a 
munificent anonymous gift of a sum by Deed of Covenant which in 
eight years would amount to 20,000 and form the nucleus of an 
Endowment Fund. 

Nine months earlier the college had announced the appointment of 
a distinguished Fellow, Miss Ida Mann, to be Professor while hold- 
ing the Margaret Ogilvie Readership in Ophthalmology. Miss Mann, 
who became an honorary M.A. of Oxford in 1941 when she was 
appointed to the Readership, had been a London D.Sc. of 1928 who 
was now Ophthalmic Surgeon at both the Royal Free and the Royal 
Ophthalmic Hospitals. 

In the last year of the War Miss Grier and Miss Darbishire both 
announced their intention of retiring at the end of the Trinity term. 
Miss Grier had undertaken, after relinquishing the Headship of 
Lady Margaret Hall, to prepare an "Educational Biography" of the 
late Sir Michael Sadler, former Master of University College, based 
on his numerous papers. She had been Principal of her college for 
twenty-four years, and to succeed her would not be easy. 

Miss Darbishire, unlike Miss Grier, had not quite reached the 
retirement age, but the lure of literary scholarship, so long subordi- 
nated to the interests of Somerville, beckoned her with its lifelong 
appeal. Ahead, it was clear, lay a new epoch with new problems, 
demanding fresh minds for their solution. She felt fully justified in 
now concentrating her energies upon two pieces of editorial work for 


the Oxford University Press her own edition o Milton, and the last 
three volumes of the late Professor de Selincourt's Wordsworth, 
which he had left to her to see through the press. She hoped also to 
produce a posthumous collection of his essays. 

The end of the war in Europe, so long expected, came when the 
Trinity term was a fortnight old. Not until the Long Vacation would 
Oxford's men and women see the end of the war with Japan and 
confront the illimitable new challenge of atomic weapons. 

Most of the colleges were then caught unprepared; fewer bonfires 
were lit than on V.E. Day, when the remnants of sixty-three, includ- 
ing thirteen hundredweight of scrap-iron at Carfax, were removed 
next morning from the streets. Though little disorder had occurred, 
the bill for damage done to city property amounted to ^60. This 
damage, commented the Magazine, was by no means all due, as in 
the past, to the "young gentlemen" of the university; "in manners, 
as in politics, what was once the prerogative of a class has become a 
privilege of the people." 

In graver mood had followed the Thanksgiving Service at St 
Mary's on Sunday May 13, when the Bishop of Oxford preached, 
and the order of service used was the one published for general use 
throughout the country. On this day the congregation overflowed 
from the body of the church into the aisles, and women undergradu- 
ates, no longer separated by their sex from common experience in 
war or peace, crowded the galleries. 

Men and women alike were humbly conscious that, in a period 
when teachers had been driven by the thousand into exile and denied 
the right demanded by Milton in Areopagitica "to know, to utter, 
and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties," their 
university had remained for the past twelve years a leading refuge 
for scholars and a symbol of all that those scholars had lost and 
could now recreate. 

This was a moment when, without sentimentality, the under- 
graduates of both sexes could see Oxford afresh as an earlier under- 
graduate, Charles Reeding, had seen it from Bagley Woods "each 
college, each church, he counted them by their pinnacles and turrets. 
The silver Isis, the grey willows, the far-stretching plains, the dark 
groves, the distant range of Shotover wood, water, stone, all so 
calm, so bright." 11 

On May 10, in the University Gazette, the Vice-Chancellor's pub- 
11 Quoted by a note-writer in the Oxford Magazine for June 21, 1945. 


lished statement had emphasized the same note of thankfulness and 
the future opportunity for continued service : 

Any words are inadequate to the end of the greatest and most 
destructive war in history. We have much to be specially thankful for 
in Oxford. The loss of life among our past and present members, 
serious enough, has been much less than in the last war. In a world 
where devastation has been widespread, our historic buildings, monu- 
ments and libraries have escaped without a scar; we have not even 
had to spend our nights in air-raid shelters. . . . 

These past six years . . . have added something to a great tradition. 
It is for us, the living, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work. 

Chapter 10: A Human Society 
(1945 and after) 


shortened course described the top-speed atmosphere which followed 
the Second World War as "whirl and bustle." 

The university had to sustain an even greater return rush from 
the Forces than its authorities had foreseen, and the proportion of 
married Fellows rose to 66 per cent. A few women came back from 
war service and were allowed special exemption from statutory regu- 
lations, which included the restriction on their numbers; in such an 
Oxford this could not for the time be maintained. During the winter 
of 1944 conferences had been held between high-ranking officers of 
the three women's auxiliary services and the principals and tutors of 
the five women's societies; in consequence a high level of candidates 
was expected. 

At both the men's and the women's colleges the numbers exceeded 
all records. In the Michaelmas term of 1946 a total of 5290 men and 
990 women contrasted with 3750 men and 850 women in 1938. 
Women now amounted to rather more than one-sixth of the total 
undergraduate body. By 1950 the numbers of both sexes had increased 
(6119 men to 1075 women), but the proportion remained similar. 

The more popular lectures provided mainly standing-room, and 
so marked was Oxford's share of the world- wide book famine that 
queues formed before the libraries opened, and in five minutes every 
seat was filled. Men and women alike wasted time in pursuing books 
required for the weekly essay, and the booksellers' supplies of new 
reprints were cleared in half a day. In spite of the contemporary 
printing problem, the Isis began to appear again after six years' 

A post- War bus shortage handicapped work almost as much as the 
book famine. In the Hilary term of 1947 food, like fuel, was scarce, 
and the weather became savagely cold. Undergraduates stumbled 
over frozen snow through streets still only half lit after dark, seeking 
a little warmth in lecture-rooms and libraries. 


Among the women's colleges St Hugh's suffered most from cur- 
rent inconveniences. In October 1947 the Oxford Magazine reported, 
with a lively irony, that "the recently formed Department of Zoo- 
logical Field Studies is living in hutments at St Hugh's." These long- 
enduring monstrosities disfigured the college garden when the seniors 
and juniors went back to their own building. They had expected to 
resume occupation in the Hilary term; instead, they had to return at 
a few weeks' notice to a half-cleaned college filled with broken furni- 
ture on the first day of the Michaelmas term 1945. 

In her annual address to the college during the first year of re- 
newed peace Miss Gwyer commented sadly that the garden alone 
would take years to recover. But she recalled the miracles of brain 
surgery performed by Professor Sir Hugh Cairns at St Hugh's Hos- 
pital, and added philosophically, "It is 'this picture* rather than 
'that/ that we must 'look on.' " 

Shared discomforts and the increase of numbers among both men 
and women inspired a spontaneous growth of friendship and co- 
operation between them. This time there was no epidemic of dancing 
as in 1919, but nearly all clubs and societies were now mixed, and 
offered a bewildering choice of political and social activities to first- 
year students. 

Men and women alike thronged the Sheldonian Theatre on Octo- 
ber 25, 1945 (St Crispin's Day), to watch the first spectacular event of 
the post- War era. That date saw Convocation degrees being con- 
ferred on General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Field-Marshal Sir Bernard 
Montgomery, and the American Ambassador Mr John Winant, 
among many others. 

"We have outridden the most dangerous storm that ever beat 
upon our shores," commented the Oxford Magazine. "The captains 
of our fate, the saviours of our way of life, come to receive an old- 
fashioned (it may seem) and inappropriate pledge of our gratitude." 

The ceremony was broadcast, and eleven searchlights arranged 
round the theatre turned it into a brilliantly coloured stage. General 
Eisenhower's gleeful enjoyment, the Magazine reported, contrasted 
entertainingly with "Mr Winant' s air of a Head of School at a 

A long sequence of retirements and new appointments inevitably 
followed the previous fifteen years of stability within the women's 


At Lady Margaret Hall, Lucy Stuart Sutherland succeeded Miss 
Grier, who retired in 1945 and received a C.B.E. in the New Year 
Honours List of 1951. Miss Sutherland had come to Somerville in 
1925 as a graduate with Distinction from the South African Univer- 
sity of the Witwatersrand, and took First-class Honours in Modern 
History in 1927. From 1928 to 1945 she had been Fellow and Tutor 
in Economic History at Somerville, and was to become a Member of 
the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1951, and in 1954 a Fellow of 
the British Academy and a Member of the Hebdomadal Council. 

For twelve years Miss Sutherland had been in charge of students 
reading Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. She was largely respon- 
sible for the high reputation of this school, in which she was an 
examiner from 1937 to 1940. Her own special studies had centred on 
eighteenth-century history; various learned journals had published 
the results of her researches, which also formed the background of 
her book A London Merchant, 1695-1774. In 1936 and 1937 she had 
edited, with May McKisack, Miss M. V. Clarke's posthumous manu- 
scripts 'Medieval Representation and Consent , and Fourteenth Cen- 
tury Studies. She was also editor, with H. Cam and Mary Coate, of 
the late Professor Elizabeth Levett's Studies in Manorial History 

Three years later the War claimed her, and in 1941 she joined the 
temporary Civil Service. There she became first Temporary Principal 
and then Temporary Assistant Secretary at the Board of Trade, and 
later joined the British Delegation to the Council of U.N.R.R.A. in 
Washington and Montreal. 

At Somerville Miss Darbishire's retirement took effect immedi- 
ately after the War, and for the next ten years the literary work to 
which she gladly dedicated herself 'made news' for Oxford. A series 
of honours came to her which included the degree of Hon.D.Litt. 
from Durham and London Universities, and the C.B.E. in 1955. In 
1950 she organized the centenary celebration of Wordsworth's death 
(April 23, 1850), and took charge of a "Pilgrim's Progress" from 
Oxford to Grasmere, where she now lived. Her Clark Lecture on 
The Poet Wordsworth was specially published in time for this event. 

In that same year, 1950, Miss Darbishire's old school, the Oxford 
Girls' High School, celebrated its seventy-fifth birthday. It had 
opened on November 3, 1875, with four mistresses and twenty-nine 
pupils, and was thus four years older than any of the women's col- 
leges. In a city which produced a large percentage of intelligent 


daughters from intellectual families the influence of the High School, 
as the oldest institution for women's education at Oxford, had always 
been considerable. Its headmistress in 1950, Miss V. E. Stack, had 
graduated from Lady Margaret Hall. 

After the leadership of those resourceful unacademic women 
Madeleine Shaw Lefevre and Agnes Maitland, Somerville had chosen 
for its principals a pioneer classicist (Emily Penrose), a great humani- 
tarian (Margery Fry), and a leading literary scholar, Helen Darbi- 
shire. It had never appointed a scientist, and now recognized the 
spectacular development of science in the post-War era by inviting a 
distinguished haematologist, Dr Janet Vaughan, who had come to 
Somerville as a medical student in 1919, and went down in 1923 with 
First-class Honours in Natural Science and Physiology. 

For over twenty years Dr Vaughan had been away from Oxford, 
largely engaged, with the help of scholarships and Fellowships, in 
scientific research. In 1942 she had been a Member of the Inter- 
departmental Committee on Medical Schools, and in 1944 of the 
Royal Commission on Equal Pay. During the War she was Medical 
Officer in charge of the North-west London Blood Supply Depot for 
the Medical Research Council, where she led a team of scientists who 
were applying the results of her research to the urgent needs of the 

In yet another fashion Dr Vaughan's appointment departed from 
recent practice, for the principals of the women's colleges had nor- 
mally been spinsters, and she was a married woman with two young 
daughters. A correspondent to the Oxford Magazine reminded its 
readers that a "distinguished precedent" existed for this election: 
" the second Principal of Newnham (1889) was Mrs Henry Sidgwick, 
the wife of the philosopher, to whom she had been married thirteen 
years before; and they resided together at the College which he had 
helped to build." 

The Magazine oddly omitted to mention that Oxford precedents 
existed in Mrs Arthur Johnson, the first Principal of the Home 
Students, and in Mrs Esther Burrows of St Hilda's. 

A year after her appointment Dr Vaughan was elected to the Heb- 
domadal Council, and in 1952 to the Medical Subcommittee of the 
University Grants Committee. In 1955 she visited Russia to repre- 
sent Oxford University at the bicentenary celebrations at the Univer- 
sity of Moscow, where she was the only woman, though universities 
were represented from all over the world. These honours were to be 


crowned in 1957 by the award of the D.B.E. in the New Year 
Honours List. 

The weight of her distinctions left Dame Janet as informal, un- 
conventional, and vital as she had always been, and her dark, hand- 
some appearance suggested to her colleagues the wisdom of having 
her portrait painted while she was Principal rather than after she had 
retired. The picture by Claude Rogers, painted in 1957, shows her in 
the vivid scarlet of a Doctor's robes against a rich background of 
darker reds. Not everybody admired it, since, like the portrait of 
Helen Darbishire, it was 'modern' and impressionistic. 

In 1946 Miss Gwyer, after twenty-two years of wise, unselfish ser- 
vice at St Hugh's, followed Miss Grier and Miss Darbishire into 
retirement. The new Principal, Evelyn E. S. Procter, was another 
Somervillian, who had taken a First in History in 1918, and as a 
Mary Somerville Research Fellow from 1921 to 1925 had studied the 
reign of Alfonso X of Castile. After 1925 until her appointment as 
Principal she had been History Tutor at St Hugh's, and from 1933 
to 1934 a University Lecturer on Mediaeval European History. 

Four of the five women principals were now Somerville graduates. 

The senior of these principals, Miss Julia de Lacy Mann, retired 
from St Hilda's in 1955 after twenty-seven years which had seen con- 
spicuous changes in the position of women at Oxford. Kind and im- 
perturbable, sagacious and confident, she had watched her college 
almost double its numbers during her long period of office, and left 
as her memorial a courageous building programme for her successor 
to fulfil. 

This successor, Miss Kathleen Major, interrupted the Somerville 
record of college principals; she had taken the Honours School of 
Modern History from St Hilda's in 1928, and after four years as 
Librarian at the college had become Archivist to the Bishop of 
Lincoln in 1936, and a Reader in Diplomatic 1 to Oxford University 
in 1946 after a year as Lecturer. 

In Lincoln Miss Major had been curator of one of the largest col- 
lections of ecclesiastical archives in Britain, and at the time of her 
appointment was still at work on the late Canon Foster's edition of 
the great Registrum Antiquissimum of Lincoln Cathedral. She and 
the Canon had been responsible for volume iv in 1938; between 1940 
and 1953 Miss Major alone edited volumes v to vii. Numerous con- 

1 The critical study of the forms of documents, which has had a recognized place 
in the advanced teaching of Oxford mediaeval historians for half a century. 


tributlons of hers on mediaeval deeds and documents had appeared in 
the English Historical Review, the Bulletin of the Institute of His- 
torical Research, and other scholarly publications. 

Like Janet Vaughan, Kathleen Major brought back to Oxford 
from the wider world a sophisticated cordiality and social ease not 
always attainable by dons of either sex who spend a lifetime at 
a university. St Hilda's building programme provided her with 
her own beautifully appointed small house in the college grounds. 
Only Lady Margaret Hall now retained the practice established 
when it was never supposed that a principal might be a married 
woman with a family of giving its Head rooms in college. 

Between 1945 and the end of the next decade, not only retirement 
but death removed many well-known Oxford women graduates. 

One outstanding Somervillian, at college from 1910 to 1912, who 
died in the Michaelmas term of 1945 was Lady Woolley (Katharine 
Elizabeth Menke), who had been officially appointed honorary assis- 
tant to her husband, Sir Leonard Woolley, when he became Archaeo- 
logical Adviser to the War Office in 1943. In spite of the growing 
paralysis of the spine which eventually caused her death, her techni- 
cal qualifications made her the only wife ever brought to the War 
Office to work with her husband. She bequeathed to Somerville 
^8000 to found a travelling Fellowship in Archeology. 

Far more familiar in public life, and perhaps the best-known of all 
Somerville graduates in the first half of the twentieth century, was 
Eleanor Rathbone, who died suddenly on January 2, 1946, aged 

From the time that she became Independent M.P. for the Combined 
English Universities in 1929 Miss Rathbone had dedicated her fine 
intellect and moral energy to political and social causes. She never lost 
her seat in the House, and for seventeen years, without thought of 
the personal cost, had spent herself not only on her Parliamentary 
work, but on the campaign for Family Allowances (which, thanks 
to her persistence, became law, in June 1945); on the prolonged prob- 
lem of caring for refugees from a Continent overcrowded with dis- 
placed persons; and on the Save Europe Now Movement for bringing 
timely food and help to devastated countries, including Germany. 

Appropriately she had also succeeded Dame Millicent Fawcett in 
1919 as President of the National Union of Societies for Equal Citi- 


She had devoted herself "with unflagging zeal and an absolute 
singleness of purpose to the relief of man's estate," Helen Darbishire 
wrote of her in a supplementary leaflet to the Somerville Association 
of Senior Members Report for 1944-45, and reminded its readers 
how Eleanor Rathbone had once warned her colleagues that if 
women hoped to carry any reform through to its final stage they 
must combine the methods of the Giant Sisyphus, Bruce's spider, the 
Ancient Mariner, and the importunate widow. 

Four years after Eleanor Rathbone's death, in March 1950, the 
Labour Government, following a general election, abolished the Par- 
liamentary representation of universities. 2 

"It had lasted for just on three and a half centuries," lamented the 
Oxford Magazine. "It really was a pity to lose it. It did no harm to 
anyone and was of value in more ways than one." 

The work of Eleanor Rathbone has been part of its value. Somer- 
ville established a Memorial lecture in her honour; in 1953 the 
Right Hon. Hugh Gaitskell gave the first of the series. Five years 
later his daughter Julia became an undergraduate at the college. 

In 1947 Oxford lost, in Dorothy Lane Poole, a distinguished tutor 
little known outside the university. She was the daughter of Regi- 
nald Lane Poole, Fellow of Magdalen, Lecturer in Diplomatic, and 
Keeper of the Archives from 1902 to 1926. Her mother, Rachel, had 
edited, with her learned husband, the Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, 
for which she was made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and 
an honorary M.A. She had also founded the Oxford Bach Choir, and 
for many years was its Secretary under Sir Hugh (then Dr) Allen. 

Only a rebellious girl could have escaped from the influence of such 
parents. Dorothy had apparently felt no desire to escape; she was a 
typical don, fond of dogs and bird-watching, who stood for the old 
traditions, though she did not oppose academic reform. She had long 
been associated with the Home Students, and in her final years was 
Dean of Degrees at St Anne's. 

For the last two decades of her life the Hon. Alice Bruce, Somer- 
ville' s shy Vice-Principal from 1898 to 1930, had lived in retirement. 
After she died in November 1951 Miss L. C. Kempson, her Somer- 
ville near-contemporary, wrote of her that, though critical and diffi- 
dent for all her warm-heartedness, Miss Bruce was "typical of the 
generation which set the high tradition of the women's colleges at 
Oxford and Cambridge." 

a This change (part of the Representation of the People Act) was enacted in 1948. 


The following year saw tie death of Marianne Cecile Gabrielle 
Hugon, the Moscow-born Somerville scholar who had been a tutor at 
St Anne's from 1922 to 1947 and was the author of a first-rate book, 
Social France in the Seventeenth Century. 

The same year saw the passing at eighty-seven of Lilian Mary 
Faithfull, a great headmistress in a bygone tradition. Her volume of 
memoirs. In the House of My Pilgrimage, published in 1924 two 
years after her retirement, attributed her Somerville education to the 
foresight of her mother, who wrote magazine articles and a History 
of England while bringing up a family of eight on limited means. 

A year later her contemporary Henrietta Jex-Blake, Miss Words- 
worth's successor at Lady Margaret Hall, died in Kent at the age of 
ninety. Unlike Dame Elizabeth, who had remained at Oxford, Miss 
Jex-Blake lived after retirement with her sister, a former Mistress of 
Girton, and made little further impact on her college. 

By contrast another Fellow, Dorothy Everett, who had graduated 
from Girton to become English Tutor at St Hugh's in 1921 and at 
Somerville for one year in 1925, also died in 1953 as Tutor in Eng- 
lish Language and Literature at Lady Margaret Hall, where she had 
been appointed in 1926. In 1948 she became the first holder of a 
University Readership in English Language, but did not live to finish 
her contribution to the Oxford History of English Literature. 

In 1954, her exuberant vitality exhausted at last, Hilda Lockhart 
Lorimer died in Oxford at the age of eighty-one. 

As a child she had walked five miles daily from her father's manse 
to attend Dundee High School, and in 1893 won an Open Scholar- 
ship to Girton, where she was placed in Class I of the old Classical 
Tripos three years later. The following Michaelmas term she became 
Classical Tutor at Somerville. 

In most of her students Miss Lorimer inspired admiration and 
awe rather than affection, for her Scottish tongue could be ruthless, 
and her wit was caustic. With gifted and energetic students she took 
infinite pains, but had no mercy on the idle and insincere. From 1920 
to 1937, and again (after her retirement) from 1941 to 1945, many 
men and women undergraduates attended her lectures on Homeric 
Archaeology, in which she became University Lecturer in 1929. She 
spent most of her vacations travelling alone through the Balkans or 
excavating ancient sites in Greece. Neither hardship nor solitude 
intimidated her, or lessened her eagerness to interpret the now 
rapidly accumulating archaeological material available to students of 


Homer. The discipline of her daily walk as a school-child enabled 
her in her prime to tramp twelve hours a day over rough, primitive 

Both Somerville and Girton elected her to honorary Fellowships, 
and she enjoyed her privilege o staying at Cambridge in vacation. 
Only scholarship really mattered to her, yet so fierce was her Presby- 
terian hatred of cruelty and injustice that she allowed both World 
Wars to take her from Oxford into active war work. 

This work, and a serious throat operation at the age of seventy-six, 
postponed the completion of her comprehensive book, Homer and 
the Monuments, in which she began after her official retirement to 
collect the results of her lifelong research. Invincible determination 
brought her through two years of painful convalescence to a renewal 
of strength sufficient to enable her to finish her manuscript, which 
Macmillan published in 1951. 

In his Oxford Magazine review "C.M.B." (Sir Maurice Bowra) 
wrote of "this majestic book" that it was a great feat of learning 
which would not be replaced for many years. She dedicated it to her 
old friends Professor Gilbert and Lady Mary Murray, and Somerville 
gave her a dinner to celebrate its appearance. When she died three 
years later, her work complete after nearly sixty years as a member 
of her college, she seemed to her friends to have joined the immortals 
in whose company she had lived. 

The same year, 1954, saw the death of Cornelia Sorabji, formerly 
of Somerville, and 1956 that of Maude Roy den. The one died at 
eighty-seven and the other at seventy-nine, fifty-seven years after 
going down from Lady Margaret HalL Both had spent the last stage 
of their journey quietly in London. 

In 1956 another famous octogenarian, Professor Mildred Pope, 
died after an association of sixty-five years with Somerville. Many 
appropriate academic honours had come to her; she was a Doctor of 
Letters of the University of Paris and an honorary Doctor of the 
Universities of Manchester and Bordeaux the first woman to be so 
honoured by any French university. But concentrated philological 
research had never made her inhuman; in spite of Manchester Uni- 
versity's initial distaste for the idea of a woman professor, she soon 
became a popular colleague, and at Somerville was both admired 
for her scholarship and widely loved for her warm humanity. 

"A burning desire to redress wrongs struggled in her with an un- 
quenchable belief in the native disinterestedness and goodwill of 


every one/' ran the report of the Somerville Council in 1956. "She 
had the humble and disinterested love of learning of a medieval 
monk, whom she resembled in temperament and appearance." 

Miss Lorimer and Miss Pope, like Cornelia Sorabji and Maude 
Royden, had survived many years beyond the Scriptural span. Quite 
other was the fate of a brilliant St Hugh's scholar, Janet Eliza- 
beth Dawson, the daughter of Geoffrey Dawson, one-time Editor 
of The Times. Janet Dawson was killed in a motor accident at the 
age of twenty-nine on November 7, 1954, while travelling in Amman, 

Unexpected too was the death on December 18, 1957, after seven 
years of widowhood, of Dorothy Leigh Sayers, aged sixty-four. Her 
end came, in the words of the New York Herald-Tribune, "with the 
quiet peace which so many of her mythical victims were denied." On 
the last day of her life she went up to London for Christmas shopping 
from her home in Essex, and during the night died quietly in her sleep. 
Earlier that year one of the best friends of the women at Oxford, 
Professor Gilbert Murray, O.M., had ended his long life at the age 
of ninety-one. For many generations of "Mods," and "Greats" 
students he had played the part of Interpreter, and had served the 
Somerville Council from 1908 until his death as its much-venerated 
"Councillor." The college Report for 1957 recorded a comment once 
made by him that, of all the many causes he had cherished, women's 
education alone had succeeded. As his literary executor he chose an 
Oxford woman, Mrs Isobel Henderson, Somerville Fellow and 
Tutor and University Lecturer in Ancient History. 

In his preface to Somerville College i8jg 1921, by Muriel St 
Clare Byrne and Catherine Hope Mansfield, Professor Murray had 
written : 

Women have done fully as well in the Universities as their warmest 
champions expected. But the importance of the movement is not to be 
judged by that. Better-trained teachers have produced better schools. 
Better-trained wives and mothers have produced better homes. And a 
large increase in the number of well-trained and broad-minded citizens 
has had especially a marked effect on the public service. Indeed, it may 
reasonably be claimed that there are practical schemes of social and 
educational progress now before the nation which could never be 
realized, and would probably never have been conceived, but for the 
influence of a class of women such as did not exist anywhere in the 
world thirty or forty years ago. The only just complaint to be made 
of University women as a class is that there are so few of them. The 
nation needs twice and three times as many. 


Twenty-five years after those words were written many more 
women were to be at Oxford than Professor Murray had expected to 
see in his lifetime. If the mortality among distinguished Oxford 
women between 1945 and 1959 seemed especially to carry away 
Somerville graduates, all the colleges alike shared in the increase of 
students and in the problems created by the many young women 
who wanted to come to Oxford but could not command a place. 

Similar pressure burdened all the universities and not least Cam- 
bridge, where the women in residence had reached little more than 
half Oxford's total. 3 Here drastic changes were now imminent. If 
it had taken one World War to shake Oxford into giving degrees to 
women, it took two similarly to galvanize Cambridge. 

"The news that a move has been made towards the admission of 
women as members of Cambridge University will be received with 
interest here, though with a proper detachment," commented the 
writer of the Oxford Magazine's "Notes and News" on January 
23, 1947. In the Michaelmas term of that year the Magazine's regular 
"Cambridge Letter" reported the appointment of a Cambridge Syn- 
dicate to consider the position of women in the university. 

"Doubtless," the letter- writer added, "you will watch with inter- 
est the reception of these proposals, not least in the possibility that 
Cambridge may outstep Oxford in the degree of privileges accorded 
to women." 

By the Hilary term of 1948 Cambridge had decided to admit 
women as members of the university the following Michaelmas. The 
"Cambridge Letter" announced that the first women to receive 
honorary degrees would be admitted by the new Chancellor, Field- 
Marshal Smuts. 

The final episode in the long struggle had been enacted so quietly 
at the end of 1947 that the change had come without excitement or 
agitation. It was in fact an anachronism, for Cambridge already had 
two women professors whose anomalous status had been evident 
when honorary degrees were conferred. One of them, Dr Dorothy 
Garrod, Disney Professor of Archaeology, had visited Oxford in May 
1947 to give the first of the Memorial Lectures which commemorated 
her late teacher, Dr R. R. Marett, Rector of Exeter College from 
1928 to 1943. 

At the first Cambridge degree-giving in 1948 one of the graduates 
who formally presented herself, fifty-five years after going up to 

a The Oxford Magazine gave the number of women at Cambridge as 639 in 1950. 


Girton, was Hilda Lockhart Lorimer. Four years later the Principal 
of Newnham College, Dame Myra Curtis, joined the Council of 
the Senate. 4 

The events of 1947-48 at Cambridge doubtless had their effect 
when the problem of women's numbers at Oxford again came up 
for discussion in January I948. 5 The most critical event for them in 
the university politics of that year occurred on January 29, when the 
President of St John's College moved a statute proposing to raise the 
maximum number of women undergraduates at Oxford from 850 to 
970. He pointed out that if the statute became effective its conse- 
quence would be to fix the number of women at 150 fewer than the 
existing war-inflated total. 

The President of Corpus then moved an amendment postponing 
the statute sine die; he disagreed that a "pool" of gifted girls was 
denied access to the university, and argued that additional women 
would withdraw badly needed accommodation from men. In the 
debate which followed the Warden of New College and the Principal 
of St Hilda's (Miss Mann) explained that women undergraduates did 
not trespass on the lodgings allocated to men, and had therefore no 
effect on the male accommodation problem. 

Then, reported the Oxford Magazine, "The House divided and, 
although its opinion was already obvious, it took one's breath away 
to hear that the amendment had been rejected by 228 votes to n." 

The small size of the opposition astonished every one in the 

4 The following year, 1953, Cambridge University agreed that a third foundation 
for women, not to exceed 100 in number, should be established. An association was 
formed to promote the scheme, with Dame Myra Curtis as chairman, and New 
Hall began in temporary premises with 15 students in October 1954. In the second 
year over 400 girls competed for places; the numbers in New Hall rose to 34, and 
in the third year to 52. In 1957 the first 15 students received their degrees, and in 
December 1958 the Council of the Senate recommended to the university an amend- 
ment to the ordinance governing the permissible number of women at the Hall, 
which would allow an increase from 100 to 300. This increase would raise the sta- 
tutory number of Cambridge women to 970. A large house, formerly a school, 
with two acres of ground, was selected to become a permanent home for New Hall 
in 1960. An appeal for 500,000, launched in 1955, had reached 150,000 by 
1957. Many gifts to the fund came from the Cambridge men's colleges, including 
10,000 from King's. 

5 On V.E. Day 1945 a special statute had been passed permitting Somerville to 
raise the number of its resident undergraduates to 180 for the year 1945-46 and 
thereafter from 150 to 1 60 as one way of meeting the already heavy pressure from 
would-be entrants to the college. When the quota for women undergraduates was 
fixed in 1927, Somerville could have had 160 like the other women's colleges, but 
chose 150 owing to lack of accommodation, which had since been increased. 


crowded Sheldonian. The immense majority in favour of the women 
included representatives of every college and faculty in the university. 

"Will the Eleven against Shebes console themselves with an 
annual dinner?" the Magazine inquired facetiously the following 
week. At St Hugh's Gaudy later that year the Principal com- 
mented, "To those who remember the debate in 1927, when the 
limitation was first imposed, last January's debate seemed to mark 
the end of an epoch." 

Nine years later Miss Procter and her contemporaries were to 
receive final evidence that the epoch of women's limited acceptance 
was ended indeed. In 1948 the quota at each of the four colleges was 
raised to 180, though none had as yet the accommodation to house 
the numbers permitted. This figure was increased to 190 in 1952 
owing to the incorporation of St Anne's (permitted a quota of 250 in 
1948, which was now reduced to 230), and in 1953 to 200, with 
students reading for advanced degrees, who had previously been 
included, now counting outside the specified limits. 

From the end of the Second World War the university quota and 
the inadequate accommodation at the women's colleges, which had 
always hampered their development, were to become even more 
seriously interdependent. A vicious circle perpetually strangled the 
colleges; the only way of increasing their income was to get fees from 
a larger number of students, but more students required more room- 
space, which the colleges could not finance out of their meagre 

On June 6, 1950, when Mary Stillman Harkness died in New 
York, Lady Margaret Hall lost die benefactor and friend whose gift 
of ^35,000 in 1930 had made possible the erection of the Deneke 
Building. In 1933 Mrs Harkness and her husband had visited Lady 
Margaret Hall to see this new addition. As the American guests, 
shepherded by Miss Grier, stepped into the hall, the "Gunfield choir" 
recruited from the college's domestic staff sang home-made verses, 
set to music by Dr Ernest Walker, in honour of their fairy god- 
mother. Mrs Harkness 6 called it "quite the most amusing welcome 
we have ever had in one of our buildings." 

According to its Vice-Principal, the college hoped eventually so to 

6 A pot trait at Lady Margaret Hall by Sir Frank Salisbury shows her fine intent 
face, though the resplendent evening dress is less well adapted to the college 


extend that its corner of Norham Gardens could be closed in by a 
lodge gate. Expansion towards the river was difficult owing to the 
marshy meadows; the Deneke Building had to be set on piles. The 
chief needs of the nineteen-fifties were a Principal's house and a 
larger library, of which the beginning was planned for 1959. Towards 
its estimated cost of /8o,ooo the University Chest lent ^20,000, and 
^30,000 came in from other sources. 

In 1956 Somerville College was obliged to extend its own Library 
wing; the addition contained a stack-room and ten extra rooms for 
undergraduates, with large modern windows looking south over the 
garden. Two years earlier the Library had celebrated its Jubilee with 
a revival of Robert Bridges' s open-air masque Demeter, originally 
written for its opening in 1904. In 1957 Radcliffe House, recently 
used to accommodate the Principal, was purchased, as well as two 
properties in the Woodstock Road, which gave some additional 
housing within the college grounds. 

After the War St Hugh's increased the ten acres purchased in 1924 
to fourteen and a half. The new property included eight more houses, 
bought in 1950-51, which gave to the college the entire island site 
bounded by Banbury Road, Woodstock Road, St Margaret's Road, 
and Canterbury Road. At the same time the demolition of the 
unsightly huts, which took four months, at last freed the gardens. 

That year saw the death of the college architect, Herbert Buckland, 
but the greater part of his work for St Hugh's had been done. Its 
newest buildings extended beyond a superb row of beech-trees, run- 
ning from north to south, which had marked the end of the former 
garden. As a recently built college, St Hugh's possessed the advan- 
tage shared only by the later buildings at the others 7 of spacious 
rooms and large light windows overlooking its wide lawns and spec- 
tacular flower-beds. On the main staircase stood statues of St Hugh 
of Avalon and Elizabeth Wordsworth in old age, wearing the aca- 
demic gown in which she received her honorary degree. 

Having erected no new buildings since 1936, St Hugh's issued in 
1955 an appeal for .20,000; the immediate need was not for more 
houses, but for extensions to accommodate the increased numbers 
allowed. The quiet social revolution in progress at Oxford as else- 
where now made it impracticable to put women into lodgings, for 
large houses were being converted into flats, and the shortage of 

7 And by Hartknd House and the beautiful modern dining-hall (opened in 1959) 
at St Anne's. 


domestic help was universal. The college appointed Lionel Brett as 
architect for modest additions to the two wings erected in 1916. 

In September 1952 St Hilda's launched a Building and Endow- 
ment appeal for ,150,000, which, the Oxford Magazine later com- 
mented, "has drawn attention to the plight of some of the smaller 
colleges in the University." Though allowed a quota of 190, the col- 
lege could only house 115 of its undergraduates. Plans now emerged 
for two new buildings, and Professor A. E. Richardson's designs for 
his first Oxford commission were displayed at the Royal Academy 
Exhibitions of 1951 and 1952. 

The university had shown its consciousness of the college's needs 
by granting a substantial loan at low interest; the public appeal was 
intended to fill the gap between the loan and the total cost. The 
generosity of Christ Church, which allowed St Hilda's to purchase 
the freehold of the site on favourable terms, made the whole project 
possible. Other men's colleges Merton, Queen's, and St Antony's 
also gave practical support by magnanimous contributions. 

Two years later Princess Margaret visited St Hilda's to receive 
purses for the College Building Fund, and in June 1955 Ruth Draper 
gave a special matinee at the Oxford Playhouse which raised ^300. 
By that time the fund had reached ^40,000, but was still far from 
its goal. During 1958 two generous legacies came from old students 
of the college which added to it substantially. The first benefactor, 
Mrs Lee (M. E. Warren), left St Hilda's her residuary estate of 
about ^20,000. The other bequest, of ^5000, came from Miss G. M. 

In 1954 Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville College reached 
their seventy-fifth anniversaries, though Lady Margaret Hall had 
celebrated its Jubilee a year earlier than Somerville owing to the 
appointment of Miss Wordsworth as "first Lady Principal" in 1878. 

Somerville, in 1950, had been the first of the women's colleges 
to bring its constitution finally into line with the constitutions 
of the men's colleges, and to adopt their traditional form of govern- 
ment by the Principal and Fellows. In the Hilary term, on the 
motion of its Vice-Chairman, Lord Lindsay of Birker, the Council 
sought authority to amend the college statutes, believing that "the 
time has now come for the College to remodel its Constitution on the 
pattern of the older academic societies within the University." The 
new statutes would also make possible the election, as Fellows, of 


distinguished women in other professions than college teaching or 

By 1951 this final step towards self-government was complete. The 
Privy Council approved the revised statutes on January 31, and the 
final meeting of the old Council was held, followed by a dinner, on 
May 23. From the beginning the new constitutional machinery 
worked smoothly. 

That year St Hugh's Council reached the same decision. At the 
annual meeting of senior members in 1952 the Principal explained 
that this change had been initiated by the men members of the 
Council, and especially by the late Sir Frederick Ogilvie, former 
Principal of Jesus College, shortly before his death, and by the 
University Registrar, Mr Douglas Veale. 

Lady Margaret Hall made an equivalent arrangement in 1953. The 
annual College Report of 1954 summarized the change: "On this 
date (December 31, 1953) the Corporation known as 'The Principal, 
Council and Members of Lady Margaret Hall Oxford' ceased to be, 
and that of 'The Principal and Fellows of the College of the Lady 
Margaret in Oxford commonly known as Lady Margaret Hall * took 
its place." 

St Hilda's made the same innovation in the year 1954-55, and 
spent much time in the Michaelmas and Hilary terms on the revision 
of their statutes. A college dinner on June 27 coincided with Miss 
Mann's retirement; she had been Head of St Hilda's during almost 
the whole period between the bestowal of its first charter in 1926 and 
that of its second in 1955. 

More fundamental changes occurred during the nineteen-fifties at 
St Anne's, which, without sacrificing all the old singularities that had 
made it unique, transformed itself from a body of Home Students 
into a college on an equal footing with the other four. The same 
social revolution which denied lodgings to women undergraduates 
made this development inevitable. Domestic difficulties, queues, and 
shopping problems had eliminated the pre-War hostess, and the 
Delegates for Home Students now faced the necessity of financing 
and managing large hostels themselves. 

With the help of some anonymous gifts St Anne's House opened 
at ii Bradmore Road in the Michaelmas term of 1945. That year 
the Society's benefactress, Mrs Amy G. Hardand, died and left 
almost her whole fortune of about 80,000 (its gross value be- 
ing over 175,000) to St Anne's. She imposed no special condi- 


tions but had often expressed the wish for a central building. The 
Delegates decided to complete the original design by Sir Giles 
Scott, and called the structure which contained the library Hardand 

The large legacy, one of the biggest bequests ever left by a woman 
to women, also provided three more hostels. By 1950, the majority of 
the college's 257 students were living in hostels controlled by St 
Anne's, under Wardens who took care of them but were not respon- 
sible for discipline. Only 4 lived in their own homes, 5 with guar- 
dians, and 17 in private houses. The Society had, in fact, become as 
much a residential institution as the others, but it was still ruled by a 
University Delegacy though it now possessed extensive property and 
its own substantial income. 

In that year, 1950, St Anne's submitted to the university a request 
for incorporation, and in June 1951 Congregation approved the draft 
charter and statutes. On April 29, 1952, the Queen signed the charter 
which incorporated the Society as a college. 

The tutors now became Fellows and full members of the Council, 
as at the other colleges, but St Anne's retained its tradition by includ- 
ing men who as Delegates had shared in its development. Fees were 
raised to bring them into line with those of the other women's 
societies, and the university rearranged the permitted quota so that 
St Anne's had no longer a large preponderance of students. The 
small hostels made a useful compromise between the original idea of 
living at home and the corporate life of a college. 

Dr Kirk, the Bishop of Oxford, who was appointed Visitor to the 
college, dedicated Hardand House. The new building was first occu- 
pied in the Hilary term 1952, and officially opened by the Chancellor, 
Lord Halifax, the following May. For its new coat of arms the 
college adopted a modified version of one granted in 1920 to the 
Principal's father, Field-Marshal Viscount Plumer. It bore the 
encouraging motto "Consulto et Audacter." 

Before giving up her post Miss Plumer began negotiations with 
St John's College, at a figure generous to St Anne's, for houses on the 
south side of Bevington Road. These residences were close to Hart- 
land House, and could be used as hostels. The college opened a 
Plumer Fund to buy the land, and purchased the site in 1954. 

In 1953 Miss Plumer retired, and her successor, Lady Ogilvie, took 
over a new college with firm foundations and old traditions. As the 
widow of the Principal of Jesus College, with two surviving sons, 


she was the fourth Principal of the Oxford women's colleges to be the 
mother of a family. 

After losing her husband Mary Ogilvie had bravely taken a post 
in charge of women students at Leeds University, and now brought 
to St Anne's this administrative experience combined with an inti- 
mate knowledge of Oxford. Not the least valuable of her assets, in a 
women's society which remained more human than other compar- 
able institutions, was the kindly, controlled Scottish temperament 
which had carried her through deep sorrows to a new career full of 
hope and adventure. 

In June 1955, at the end of her second year as Head, St Anne's 
obtained seven Firsts and fifty Seconds the best result in the univer- 
sity that year for a women's college, though theoretically the Home 
Students took the 'leavings' from the other colleges' entrance exami- 
nations. This triumph for Lady Ogilvie's Principalship meant that 
better students were now likely to present themselves on leaving 
school. She herself attributed it to the home-like atmosphere of the 
hostels, which helped to lift the strain of work from the under- 

After the General Election of 1945, in which Barbara Castle of 
St Hugh's was elected Labour M.P. for Blackburn, she became Par- 
liamentary Private Secretary to Sir Stafford Cripps, then President of 
the Board of Trade. 

A large variety of other distinctions came to women senior mem- 
bers of the university in the years following the Second World War. 
From 1945 onward Dr Enid Starkie, of Somerville, now University 
Reader in French Literature, collected a record series of honours. In 
1947 the French Ambassador, during a visit to Oxford, decorated her 
as Chevalier of the Legion of Honour; in 1952 she was elected a 
member of the Irish Academy, and in 1954 made a Fellow of the 
Royal Society of Literature. 

That year she was also the first woman to be invited to give the 
Zaharoff Lecture (on "Rimbaud 18541954"), and twelve months 
later became acting Professor in French Language and Literature 
during the Professor's absence in the United States. In September 
1956 she visited Moscow as a member of the Oxford University 
Delegation led by the Vice-Chancellor, and during that year was the 
first woman to be elected Chairman of the Mediaeval and Modern 
Languages Board. 


In 1946 another member of the Somerville Senior Common Room, 
Dorothy Hodgkin, a gifted scientist, became a Fellow of the Royal 
Society, and ten years later received the Society's Royal Medal "in 
recognition of her distinguished work in the elucidation of structures 
of penicillin, Vitamin B 12, and other important compounds by the 
method of X-ray crystallography." 

St Hugh's returned to the news in 1947 when Phyllis Hartnoll, 
who won the Newdigate Prize in 1929, was awarded the university's 
Prize for an English Poem on a Sacred Subject. In announcing her 
success the Oxford Magazine reported, "This 'double' was last 
achieved by one Frank Taylor of Lincoln, in 1894 and 1905." 

National recognition also came to St Hugh's in other fields, when 
Mary Cartwright, F.R.S., was appointed Mistress of Girton in 1948, 
and their renowned archaeologist, Dr Joan Evans, was elected Presi- 
dent of the Royal Archaeological Institute. In 1954 she became 
Director of the Society of Antiquaries, the first woman to hold the 

The college shared with Somerville the triumph of Dr Agnes 
Headlam-Morley, a former Somerville undergraduate who had been 
Fellow and tutor at St Hugh's in Philosophy, Politics, and Eco- 
nomics since 1934. In 1948 she was appointed the Montague Burton 
Professor of International Relations in succession to Professor E. L. 
Woodward, for whom she had deputized in his absence. She was 
thus the first Oxford woman graduate to become a Professor in her 
own university, though not the first to own the tide. This privilege 
had belonged during her period of residence to Dr Ida Mann, who 
in 1946 became Senior Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital. 

Professor Headlam-Morley's Chair was usually attached to Balliol 
College, but, as men's colleges (apart from Nuffield) could not under 
their statutes admit women, she remained at St Hugh's. New legis- 
lation submitted to Congregation in October 1959 made official the 
attachment of a newly appointed woman professor to one of the 
women's colleges. 

Recognition of another type came to Anne Dreydel, tutor at 
St Anne's and a specialist in public relations, who in 1948 became 
Chairman of the Oxford-Austria Universities Committee, which 
arranged for parties of Austrian students to visit Oxford. Miss Drey- 
del, a beautiful young woman compelled by injuries in an air raid to 
live in a wheel-chair, was now a well-known figure in Oxford owing 
to her courage, good looks, and attractive clothes. 


After the War a number of foreign girls came to Oxford to study 
for a year or two, and meanwhile maintained themselves by domestic 
work. These girls became the special responsibility of Miss Dreydel 
and St Anne's. 

In the Hilary term of 1951 the Oxford Magazine published a 
review of Medieval Studies, edited by Veronica Ruffer and A. J. P. 
Taylor. This volume had been presented to Somerville's graduate, 
Dr Rose Graham, "who from 1898 onwards," ran the Magazine's 
citation, "has submitted to the public a series of books and papers 
that has left her colleagues with a very deep sense of their admiration 
and respect." 

Three years later the Magazine reviewed Jerusalem Journey, by 
H. F. M. Prescott, Lady Margaret Hall's well-known writer whose 
scholarly novel, The Man on a Donkey (1952), was said, according to 
the critic, "to have taken five years to write and is generally recog- 
nized as the finest historical novel of recent years." 

The following term the Press announced that a centre for Colonial 
studies, to be financed by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and called Queen 
Elizabeth House, was to be established in Oxford owing to the 
pioneer work of Margery Perham of St Hugh's (who had been 
awarded a C.B.E. in the Birthday Honours List of 1949), and the 
late Sir Reginald Coupland. Thanks to them both, Oxford has now 
achieved an outstanding position in studies of this kind. 

Two further honours came to Somerville in 1957, when Rose 
Macaulay, the novelist, was awarded the D.B.E. in the New Year 
List, though she lived to enjoy her distinction only for eighteen 
months. Later that year Harvard University conferred the 
Hon. D.Litt. upon a younger Somerville graduate, Barbara Ward 
(Lady Jackson), who was the first woman to address their alumni at 
such a ceremony. 

The short perspective of only a few years makes all but impossible 
the nomination of outstanding undergraduates in this final period. 
A token selection must include two Lady Margaret Hall students, 
Lois Mitchison and Jennifer Ramage (the daughters of famous 
women, Naomi Mitchison and Cathleen Nesbitt). The college 
Register for 1950-52 contained the names of three notable foreign 
undergraduates, Princess Astrid of Norway, Princess Sebel Desta of 
Ethiopia, and Alia El-Solh, daughter of the late Riad El-Solh, Prime 
Minister of Lebanon. Another able undergraduate of 1950 was 
Antonia Pakenham, the eldest daughter of Lord Pakenham, whose 


mother had been, as Elizabeth Harman, a Lady Margaret Hall 
Scholar o 1926. After going down Antonia wrote children's books 
and worked with the publishers Weidenfeld and Nicolson until her 
marriage to the Hon. Hugh Fraser, M.P. 

At Somerville Penelope Houston (1945-48) subsequently became 
Editor of Sight and Sound, and in 1950 Margaret Hubbard, the 1949 
Australian winner of the Dorothy McCalman Scholarship bequeathed 
by Winifred Holtby for candidates who had earned their living 
before coming to Oxford, was awarded the Hertford Scholarship 
(never previously won by a woman) and the Craven Scholarship. The 
following year she also won the Ireland Scholarship, the most dis- 
tinguished Classical award open to members of the university. In 
1953 she concluded her remarkable undergraduate career with two 
further university awards, the Craven Fellowship and the Passmore 
Edwards Scholarship, and in 1957 became Classics Tutor at St 

Two years later Stephanie Pickard, of Somerville, a winner of the 
First Craven Scholarship, received the university's Gaisford Prize 
for Greek verse. 

St Hilda's produced a promising young actress, Yvonne Furneaux 
(1946-49), and an able future educationist, Florence Elliot (1947-50). 
At St Anne's Elizabeth Jennings (194447) reac ' English and sub- 
sequently published three books of poems, one of which, A Way of 
Looking, won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1956. 

To some equally significant but less personally publicized achieve- 
ments, the 1957 Final Schools list bore witness. Its silent testimony 
even inspired a rueful comment in a letter to The Times signed 
"Maurice Jones (Class 1886)" on August 8 of that year: "Was 
there ever such a 'Greats' list published as the one that appeared 
in your columns on July 3ist? Not a single Balliol representative 
among the Firsts and members of three ladies' colleges in that 

With the new phase of university society after the War, the ado- 
lescent period of the Oxford women's colleges definitely ended. 

"We have a clear and consistent conception of the social life be- 
fitting a mixed University, preferring it to be on the basis of the 
highest common factor rather than the lowest common denominator 
between the sexes," Miss Gwyer said at St Hugh's in 1946. At this 
period about 90 per cent, of men undergraduates were returning ex- 


Servicemen, with an abnormally high average age. Only a minority 
of women came back from national service, though there were more 
than the infinitesimal proportion of ex-Service women who returned 
to Oxford in 1919. 

In spite of an occasional 'pure scholar,* most of the girl under- 
graduates now at Oxford were not there, as their early predecessors 
had been, for the joy of learning. They came to achieve self- 
development and a widening horizon, in the hope of becoming better 
citizens and eventually better parents. 

During a typical post-War conversation between the famous retired 
Head of an Oxford men's college and a younger don from another 
university, the older man argued that the presence of women at 
Oxford was now a deterrent to friendships between men. The 
younger maintained that this was not true, but even if true was not 
a disadvantage. Friendships between men and women were more 
natural, he insisted. The recent biography of a celebrated Cambridge 
poet proved that emotional friendships between men could be quite 
as upsetting to scholastic achievement as the normal bisexual 

There was, indeed, little tension between the men and women at 
Oxford in the nineteen-forties and -fifties; it had begun to disappear 
twenty years earlier, and the conscious feminism of the pioneers, 
provoked by masculine prejudice, had followed it; senior and junior 
women alike now associated unself-consciously with their male con- 
temporaries. The position of the older woman within the university 
was accepted as part of the pattern of Oxford public life, just as the 
scores of young men and women openly talking together over tea or 
coffee each morning at n o'clock were part of the undergraduate 

Regretful nostalgia for a predominantly masculine Oxford seemed 
now to be a hang-over from the college life of elderly men. On 
February 23, 1957, a letter to the Daily Telegraph from Sir John 
Murray, the publisher, confessed to this nostalgia, and added that it 
was mingled with envy of the United States, where universities and 
colleges for men only, as well as for women only and for mixed 
societies, gave American men a choice now denied to their British 

He was doubtless startled by the decision of Yale University the 
following year to allow 'co-eds* from Smith and Vassar, two lead- 
ing American women's colleges, to take the fourth year of their 


undergraduate studies and the first year of their graduate work at 
Yale, where they would live in a graduate women's hall. 

At Oxford direct relationships were growing rapidly between the 
women's Junior Common Rooms and the university. Some women 
contributed regularly to university magazines; others supported the 
Oxford University Dramatic Society and the Experimental Theatre 
Club. 8 Yet others were deeply involved in political clubs; in 1950 one 
Somervillian was the first woman Chairman of the Oxford Univer- 
sity Labour Club, and another was President of the Liberal Club. 

University societies, already 95 in number at the outbreak of war, 
had reached 150 in 1949, and later increased to 200. Inevitably the 
women's Junior Common Rooms emptied and their college societies 
declined; all their talents were given to undergraduate activities 
common to both sexes. 9 Some of these societies were more closely 
related to their future careers than their work for Schools; this was 
especially true for women whose ambitions centred on politics, jour- 
nalism, or the stage. 

During the Long Vacation of 1950 a drama tour in the United 
States organized by the Oxford University Dramatic Society repre- 
sented an innovation for Oxford women. Two girl undergraduates 
joined a group of Oxford men in an undertaking, known as the 
Oxford University Players, which was a pioneering venture not only 
in the theatrical sense, but in the relationship between junior men 
and women within the university. 

The company which took King Lear and The Alchemist to 
American theatres on the East Coast and in the Middle West came 
from all parts of the university, but mainly from the two inter- 
collegiate drama clubs. The tour manager, Brian Acworth, deter- 
mined that the experiment should pay for itself from the proceeds 
of the performances. He imposed rigid economies on the cast, and 
came so near to fulfilling his purpose that the final deficit was less 
than the 'plane fare of one member. 

8 In October 1959 a Lady Margaret Hall undergraduate, Margaret Vemon, 
became the first woman president of the experimental Theatre Club. 

9 Some of the senior women dons believed that this change bore hardly on the 
less mature and dynamic students who shrank from university functions, and in 
earlier years had depended for their development on college debates, drama, and 
games. Other tutors disagreed, arguing that immature students equally avoided 
college societies. One of the more recent principals, Miss Kathleen Major, com- 
mented that inter-college debating no more penalized the undynamic woman than 
her male equivalent. There were, she said, plenty of scholarly and religious societies 
for the quieter undergraduate to join. 


These boys and girls went to the States not as an ordinary acting 
troupe, but as players sponsored by a university society. The two 
women undergraduates, Josee Richards, of St Hilda's, and Shirley 
Catlin, of Somerville, respectively played Regan combined with the 
lead in The Alchemist,, and Cordelia in King Lear. A third girl, 
Jocelyne Page, was not a university woman, but a young repertory 

The two college girls were the first Oxford women to take part in 
a tour of this kind, which certainly would not have been permitted 
them before the Second World War. They shared with the men the 
discomforts of third-rate lodgings, the exhaustion of travelling 'hard' 
on long journeys, and the perils of chartered planes. "There were 
times," wrote a member of the company, Norman Painting, who 
described their adventure in the Oxford Magazine, "when some of us 
began to wonder whether the whole scheme was some toughening 
course for a team of Commandos who were to perform in the Third 
World War." But the company had its reward in the consistent 
enthusiasm of their American audiences, who were * crazy' about 
the young players from start to finish. 

It is improbable that the women undergraduates in the cast ever 
thought of themselves as examples of a long-developing revolution 
in its final stage; they were concerned only with their r61e as 
theatrical troupers. Not until the tour was over did each girl realize 
that she owed her part in it to the modern minds and constructive out- 
look of the two college Principals involved, Dr Janet Vaughan and 
Miss Julia Mann. 

The hardihood of the travelling girl students may well have been 
related to the improved care for health at all the colleges for which,, 
until after the First World War, there was a lamentable need. In 
1947, through the generosity of the Nuffield Foundation, a voluntary 
health service for undergraduates (initially limited to Somerville and 
Magdalen) offered an annual medical overhaul, with X-rays and 
pathological tests. 

Many early students had depended for their fitness on country 
rambles which had long ceased to be either fashionable or practical. 
Oxford's traffic problem had made the city streets dangerous, and 
the ceaseless extension of the suburbs had swallowed up even the 
distant woods and fritillary-adorned water-meadows once so popular 
with cyclists. Between 1900 and 1920 games and athletic competitions 
between the women's colleges had taken the place of walks, but 


after women became members of the university they spent most of 
their spare time with male companions. 

The "inner citadel" of Oxford society, which Winifred Knox 
(Lady Peck) had likened in 1903 to a highly developed city-state, now 
maintained its mental and physical fortress-walls in the midst of 
social and topographical changes so vast that the city's once peaceful 
environs were unrecognizable even by those who had gone down 
only a few academic generations ago. Within this citadel were now 
many undergraduates, both men and women, from backgrounds 
against which the colleges had been virtually closed at the beginning 
of the century. 

Even in 1930 grants had been few and small, but by the nineteen- 
fifties the growing assistance of students from public funds meant 
that few girls or boys capable of benefiting from a university educa- 
tion need go without it for lack of resources. Local education 
authorities now gave generous grants on the results of the Advanced 
Level General Certificate of Education. Other forms of help came 
from school-leaving exhibitions, City companies, and educational 

After 1946 all college scholarships and exhibitions entitled the 
student to what was in effect a State scholarship, and many appli- 
cants received grants who had merely obtained admission to a col- 
lege as the result of a competitive entrance examination. In 1951 
52, out of 165 undergraduates at one women's college, 52 held State 
Scholarships and 56 had received awards from local authorities. 

With the economic barriers demolished which once barred would-be 
candidates from the university, a far wider range of students was now 
in residence. The year 1950 saw the truly democratic university which 
to the Royal Commissioners of 1850 had seemed an almost unattain- 
able dream. 

Because they now belonged to a comprehensive institution, the 
women's colleges looked outward as well as inward. When the young 
Queen Elizabeth was proclaimed on February 14, 1952, at a Convoca- 
tion attended by 800 members, her accession seemed to typify the new 
status of women not only at Oxford, but throughout the country. 
After the Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution had stirred the 
England of 1956 to an agitation equalled only by the response of the 
nineteen-thirties to the Nazi terror in Germany, political feelings in 
the women's Junior Common Rooms reached a pitch unknown there 
for many years. Women joined with men in demonstrations, protest 


meetings, petitions, and expeditions to lobby Members of Parliament 
at the House of Commons. Both sexes contributed to the Hungarian 
Student Scholarship Fund, and joined in welcoming the group of 
Hungarian students who arrived in Oxford towards the end of the 

Amid all these changes which had transformed the university, so 
long passive beneath the hand of the centuries, within a mere hun- 
dred years, the four women's colleges preserved, as St Anne's had 
done, their own "special characters. 

Lady Margaret Hall, unshaken in its Anglican loyalties, early 
attained, with undenominational Somerville, the integrated maturity 
of a college. St Hugh's, physically the largest, and the last (apart from 
St Anne's) to be built though not the last to be founded, had most 
scope and perhaps the greatest need for psychological growth. St 
Hilda's, for all its up-to-date additions, kept the 'home from home' 
atmosphere originally given to it by Miss Beale. The cosiest and most 
beautiful of the Oxford women's colleges, its mature comfort still had 
a family character that suggested a private household upon which 
a college had been superimposed. 

Many women going down from the five societies sought the help 
of the Oxford University Appointments Committee, which was 
founded in 1892 and became a Statutory Department in 1907. It 
existed to supply information to members of the University about 
opportunities for employment, and to support the application of suit- 
able candidates. 

For many years the women's section of this committee had been a 
semi-official, half-recognized poor relation, but in 1946, with the 
promulgation of a statute giving it permanent form, the Women's 
Appointments Committee acquired a new status and officially 
amalgamated with the men's. Its Secretary, Miss D. M. Fone, a 
Somervillian of 1922-25, became a full-time Secretary of the new 
committee and dealt only with posts open to women. 

In her farewell speech to the Home Students in 1921 Mrs Johnson 
had made a comment which applied equally to all the women's col- 
leges: "The real prosperity of the society depends upon its members 
while they are here, and also upon their life and their influence 

Before they could exercise this later influence many undergraduates 
needed further training, such as a secretarial course or a diploma in 


education. Students with the best Schools results hoped for a post as 
an Oxford college tutor, though the salary scales of women dons were 
poorer than those in many other professions, and lower at Oxford 
than in the provincial universities. Emphasizing this inferiority in a 
note on the introduction of equal pay for women in the Civil Service, 
the training colleges, and the teaching profession, the Oxford Maga- 
zine remarked in its issue of May 5, 1955: "The women's colleges 
are not unaware of the dangers of this situation, but their financial 
position is such that it is impossible for them to make any sub- 
stantial addition to salaries." 

About one-third of the women going down took up teaching 
below the college level, but the Appointments Committee continued 
to be notified of more posts, especially in the natural sciences, mathe- 
matics, geography, and classics, than it was able to fill. Of 297 women 
who went down in 1955, a typical year, 70 became teachers, and 30 
were scientists who immediately found posts. These scientists tended 
to go into industry rather than teaching in spite of the new Burnham 
Scale for teachers, under which they were as well paid as any woman 
in a comparable profession. 

Economists and statisticians, like scientists, were in constant 
demand, and social service, already developed before the War, had 
proved to be work for which college women were well adapted. 
Other openings were still few outside the creative professions, with 
their self-employed members dedicated to artistic or literary work 
such as biography, fiction, and free-lance journalism. 10 Limited also 
were the opportunities for research, a coveted occupation and one for 
which many grants existed, though often it merely postponed the 
problem of a permanent career. Archivists, when appointed, held 
important positions, but posts were scarce and required a special 

The Oxford Medical School was small, with a quota for both men 
and women; prospects were still poor for women barristers, though 
better for solicitors and legal advisers. Only a handful of women 
annually attempted the examination for the Administrative Grade 
of the Civil Service. 11 A few others went into publishers' offices or 

10 Women with this type of vocational urge seldom sought the help of the Appoint- 
ments Committee, though it was able- to put inquirers into touch with an agency 
useful to the practitioners of home crafts, such as jewellery and pottery. 

11 In spite of the struggle to establish their right to them, few women appear to 
be attracted by these positions or by the Foreign Office. 


became librarians. The B.B.C. was a favourite target, but took 
very few applicants. In 1955 seven Oxford women were offered 
places as trainees in the programme operations recruitment scheme 
run by Broadcasting House. Over 1000 candidates of both sexes 
offered themselves for training, but the total number appointed 
was 46. 

Is there much contrast, it is sometimes asked, between the ambi- 
tions of Oxford women to-day and those of their predecessors? 

Two main differences have developed in the past forty years, the 
first being the much greater variety of work available since the Sex 
Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 opened many professions 
formerly closed to women. 

In A Little Learning Winifred Peck divided the students whom 
she knew at the beginning of the century into two categories those 
who meant to earn their living by teaching in schools or col- 
leges and those who intended to stay at home and spend their time 
on voluntary philanthropic activities. By the nineteen-fifties the 
Welfare State had left few opportunities for private philanthropy, 
and the stimulus experienced by early students who pioneered their 
way into careers new to women had gone. 

Half-way through the century a woman could enter almost any 
profession for which she chose to train herself, and had little idea 
how much she owed to the initiative and persistence of her pre- 
decessors. A modern college girl takes for granted that she will 'fill 
a job' when she goes down, but the old sense of vocation, except for 
a few dedicated spirits, has given way to a preoccupation with the 
type of life that a post will bring and the opportunities for married 
companionship that it may offer. 

The second great change comes from the fact that most women 
undergraduates now expect to marry with good reason, owing to 
the present numerical equality of the sexes up to the age of 
thirty. 12 

12 In the most marriageable age-groups (20 to 29 for men and 1 8 to 23 for women) 
men actually exceed women. The Registrar-General's quarterly return for England 
and Wales for the September quarter 1958 showed that at June 30, 1958, there were 
an estimated 2,912,000 men and 2,852,000 women in the age-group 20 to 29. The 
quarterly return for the December quarter 1958 estimated a probable 3,742,000 
men and 3,548,000 women in the age-group 20 to 29 by 1998. 

These figures represent a spectacular change from the statistics for 1925, which 
in the same age-group showed an estimated 3,018,206 men and 3,381,789 women. 


In her Short History of Lady Margaret Hall, published in 1923, 
Gemma Bailey stated that after forty-five years of the, college's life 
about a quarter of its 750 students had married. During more than 
three decades which have elapsed since that date the superabundance 
of women left after the First World War has been balanced in 
younger age-groups by advances in medical science, which has learnt 
how to rescue the more numerous 13 but also more vulnerable boy 
babies from death in infancy. 

Since marriage is now the normal expectation for women under- 
graduates, 14 the old inhibition against voicing a desire for it has 
gone, and early marriages have become the fashion. For a time such 
marriages handicap the wife by reducing her mobility, but later her 
experience of home life and children adds to her qualifications for a 
responsible post. She goes down expecting both" to marry and to 
work, but often consciously accepts, as an unavoidable compromise, 
work which does not measure up to her capacity but happens to be 
obtainable where her husband is working in order to tide over the 
difficult early years of married life. 

For this reason the O.U. Appointments Committee is asked to find 
a large number of temporary or part-time posts with short hours and 
good salaries. Secretarial work is clearly the most adaptable type 
within this category. Teaching would share its advantages if the idea 
of part-time teachers became generally accepted, since the demand 
for women teachers exceeds the supply. 

At present the complications added by * part-timers' to the heavy 
task of timetable-making in big schools cause a prejudice against 
them, but a few headmistresses such as Lady Margaret Hall gradu- 
ate Miss M. J. Bishop, of the Godolphin and Latymer School in 
Hammersmith go out of their way to provide part-time employ- 
ment because they believe that married women add colour and 
humanity to school life. A few more such headmistresses would 
remove teaching from the 'last resort' occupation that it became in 
the days of the spinster careerist, and make it the welcome preroga- 
tive of the qualified married woman. 

If the statement is true that "the Welfare State has been staffed 
largely by the surplus woman," made in a pamphlet on The Educa- 

18 Normally about 106 boys are born to every 100 girls. 

14 The survey Graduate Wives (1954) stated that the marriage rate for women grad- 
uates was then almost as high as the rate for all women between twenty and forty- 


tion of Girls published in 1952 by King's College, Newcastle upon 
Tyne, who in future will be available to fill these permanent posts ? 
Men are unlikely to occupy them in a time of full employment, and 
the supply of unmarried women will rapidly diminish. 15 It grows in- 
creasingly clear that both trained married women and the society 
which has educated them must now take for granted that as soon as 
their children cease to depend on them they will have to return to 
professional positions, and remain qualified to do so by part-time 
work and refresher courses. Whatever may be the outdated reluctance 
of employers, statistics and economics will eventually compel the 
adaptation of professions and institutions to modern needs. 

The combination of careers and marriage has now become so vital 
a problem that the O.U. Women's Appointments Committee gave 
up its Trinity term meeting in 1955 to a discussion of part-time work 
for women graduates. A contributor, Ruth Nineham, to the June 
1958 issue of the University Women's Review emphasized the im- 
portance of continued mental stimulus for a college-educated woman. 

The available evidence suggests that a university education makes 
for greater efficiency in domestic as in professional occupations, but 
the early years of marriage and motherhood bring many routine 
duties which, without such stimulus, have an anaesthetizing effect 
upon a trained mind. 

In 1954 P.E.P. (Political and Economic Planning) published, under 
the title Graduate Wives, an inquiry, initiated and organized by Mrs 
Judith Hubback, into the post-college lives of the 4000 women gradu- 
ates (relatively few in number but of great potential value to the 
community) who go down from British universities each year. She 
based her survey on the results of a questionnaire sent out to 2000 
married women from eleven universities in England, Wales, and 
Scotland. 1165 women, or 58 per cent., replied. More answers came 
from Oxford, Cambridge, and London graduates than from women 
educated at provincial or Scottish universities. 

These replies showed that the lives of many highly educated 
women fell into three stages, which often overlapped. First came a 

15 In her presidential address to the British Federation of University Women at 
Bristol on July 4, 1959, Miss Irene F. Hilton said that there were unlikely to be 
large numbers of single women over twenty-five in the near future; "spinsters are 
rapidly becoming extinct.** She added that the need for the contribution of married 
women in the professions and in public life was urgent if the country was not to 
lose the fruits of its educational system; their dual role must be constantly kept 
before them. 


period of professional employment between graduation and marriage, 
or until die arrival of children. Then followed several years, their 
number determined by the size of the family, in which domestic life 
and the needs of sons and daughters dominated the wife's thoughts 
and energies. Finally she emerged into the post-rearing stage in 
which she could return to professional work if it were available, and 
in many instances was anxious to do so. 

The survey forced upon its author the conclusion that, for the 
majority of graduate wives, the career planned at the university 
ended with marriage, but about 20 per cent. presumably more 
energetic, resourceful, or ambitious than their contemporaries con- 
tinued to do full-time or part-time work while their families grew up. 
Those who worked were mainly teachers. Only i per cent, gained a 
foothold in work which could be done at home, such as writing, or 
the preparation of broadcast scripts, owing to the ruthless competition 
in these professions. 

Over 60 per cent, of the women working enjoyed the whole- 
hearted support of their husbands, and only 7 per cent, had partners 
who disapproved of their ambitions. Many graduates had married 
dons, 16 who had more sympathy than most husbands with their 
wives' wish to use their qualifications. The majority of the graduates 
covered by the survey were making no direct use of their academic 
training, but their cultivated minds and wide perspective were clearly 
contributing indirectly to the quality of national and family life. 

A second pamphlet, Graduate Wives' Tales, compiled from the 
newspaper correspondence that followed the first (which aroused 
great interest), reinforced this final conclusion. The outlook of its 
correspondents (presumably persons of initiative, since they took the 
trouble to write to the papers) was probably best expressed in the 
words of Jean Lindsay, of Girton College: 

The value of a University education is more than the formal instruc- 
tion in a specialized kind of learning; it is the training of certain 
qualities of mind such as objectivity, the ability to sift out essential 
points from a mass of detail, the capacity to realize when a point has 
been proved. 

How far did these married women graduates who gave up their 

18 At a luncheon-patty given by the Principal and Fellows of St Hilda's in 1956 
about five members of the Senior Common Room (one part-time) disclosed that 
they were married to men working within the university. 


careers for family life, or with hard work and good organization 
managed to combine the two, value their university education? 

The answer has been provided by the wives themselves. During 
the nineteen-forties and nineteen-fifties many of the (relatively) few 
women graduates who married between 1910 and 1930 sent their 
daughters, who rarely failed to win places, up to their former col- 
leges. Now that marriage has become the normal destiny of an 
Oxford woman graduate, it seems certain that these college 'grand- 
children' will increase rapidly in future years. Already they come 
up to a university very different from that known to their mothers 
and one which would be unrecognizable by their grandmothers, for 
it is a human society in which, from 1957 onward, women have 
ceased to be at Oxford on sufferance. 

After the War spasmodic signs of women's acceptance began to 
accumulate. About the time that the two Appointments Committees 
amalgamated in 1946 the Oxford Union, always a stronghold of 
tradition, began tentatively to question its own ban upon women 

On June 2, 1949, Michael Summerskill, the son of Dr Edith, 
moved a motion that women should be admitted to debating mem- 
bership. The customary defeat followed (311 votes to 98), but three 
years later two debates on female inequality showed the Union's 
difficulty in making up its mind. 

During the Trinity term 1952 a motion that "This House deplores 
the present state of inequality for women" was carried by 171 votes 
to 163 after an excellent debate. But the following term a comparable 
motion, "This House regrets its exclusion of women," was lost by 
288 votes to 185 after a discussion described by the Senior Librarian 
as the worst for fifty years. In 1955, as though suffering from a bad 
conscience, the Union actually debated the motion, "This House 
regrets that Woman, having risen up in emancipation, is again sit- 
ting down and being dictated to." This motion, largely owing to the 
participation of Sylvia Pankhurst as a guest speaker, was inconsis- 
tently won. 

In 1951 Professor Agnes Headlam-Morley had been among the 
senior members of the university chosen for the delegation sent to 
congratulate the Queen on her accession. Of the universities repre- 
sented, only Oxford and Cambridge included women. One of the 
two Cambridge members was St Hugh's graduate Mary Cartwright, 
Mistress of Girton. 


The following year saw the end of women's segregation in the 
Oxford Lists of Final Schools results, where their names were hence- 
forth to appear in alphabetical order with the men's. Very few of the 
old rules were now left which had applied to women only and made 
them a separate category within the university. 

" Perhaps/' wrote Miss Julia de Lacy Mann in the University 
Women's Review in 1958, 

the undergraduate of twenty years ago would notice chiefly the 
natural surroundings in which social intercourse between men and 
women takes place. The sight of young men washing up the tea-things 
on Sunday afternoon would have caused some surprise in the thirties. 

Early in the previous year, one of the most significant changes 
of any had occurred almost unobserved. On January 29, 1957, the 
Warden of Wadham, Sir Maurice Bowra, moved the final abolition 
of the quota system limiting the numbers of women in the university. 
The motion was agreed without a division, and all reference to a 
specified ratio of women to men undergraduates was deleted from 
the statute "Of Women Students." Only a small audience witnessed 
this symbolic event as no notice of opposition had been given, and 
those present were mainly women. 

Remembering the bitterness of the debate which produced an 
opposite result in 1927, the Principal of Lady Margaret Hall assured 
members of the Press who appeared to be much more interested 
than the university that there was no fear of women swamping men 
at Oxford by a mass expansion. 

"We have not the resources, either of finance or accommodation, 
to make such a thing possible," Miss Sutherland said. 

At the time of Princess Margaret's visit to St Hilda's in 1954 
the Oxford Magazine had pertinently commented: "The status 
of women in this University will never be satisfactory until the 
women's colleges have been freed of their role of Cinderellas." It 
was this financial weakness, an earlier issue had remarked, which 
tended still to make the women "an unassimilated minority in our 

On June 14, 1958, by a joint letter to The Times, the five principals 
of the women's colleges brought their needs to the notice of a wider 
public than the Oxford Magazine could reach. Their success in 
taking advantage of the removal of "outdated limitations" was 
handicapped, they wrote, by lack of 


the capital endowment to erect buildings, buy land, and endow fellow- 
ships. The Oxford women's colleges were founded in the early days of 
women's University education and have grown up without endow- 
ments, rich benefactors, or support from the State. That they have 
grown to their present stature is a measure of the demand which 
exists for what they have to offer. 

Until the end of the month The Times published correspondence 
evoked by this important and timely letter. Inevitably a small number 
of masculine correspondents totally unacquainted with women's 
university life and work provided some light entertainment for the 
newspaper's readers. "From my limited experience," wrote one, "I 
would have thought that out of 10 female undergraduates four were 
husband-hunting, 'pleasing daddy,' or amusing themselves. Of the 
other six, two will fail any exam they take." Another suggested that 
the colleges should specialize in "food and cooking ... as well as in 
the arts of dress and charm." But the better-informed majority wel- 
comed the principals' statement with sane and relevant comments. 

The best comment of all was still to come from the Oxford women 
who took that year's Final Schools. At the very moment in which it 
was suggested that two out of every ten women would fail in any 
examination that they took, women undergraduates were sitting for 
examinations which showed after expert analysis that the five 
women's colleges had done better than any of the men's colleges if 
the percentage of candidates gaining Firsts and Seconds was the test. 
If Firsts alone were considered, 7*9 per cent, of the women took 
Firsts to 8-1 per cent, of the men. But in the number of Seconds 
awarded the women were far ahead (715 per cent, women to 50-9 
per cent, men). 17 

Here lay the justification for the five principals' appeal and the 
evidence that the women at Oxford, without strain or self-conscious- 
ness, were now fully capable of holding their own. 

Though the problem of accommodation would continue to affect 

17 According to the Librarian of the Fawcett Society, Lady Margaret Hall between 
1956 and 1959 had the highest proportion of Firsts and Seconds taken together of 
all the Oxford colleges, both men's and women's. Somerville, however, had a higher 
proportion than Lady Margaret Hall of Firsts taken alone and came fourth in the 
list for all the colleges. "Judged on Firsts alone," stated The Observer for October 
19, 1958, "Balliol was the most successful college with 23 per cent, of candidates 
gaining Firsts, followed by Magdalen (20 per cent.) and Wadham (16.7 per cent.). 
Somerville came next with 15*3 per cent," The Oxford University Handbook for 
1959 gave BalHol's average number of undergraduates as 380, compared with 
Somerville's average of 200. Magdalen had 300 undergraduates and Wadham 260. 


their position until a growing appreciation of women's achievements 
reduced the gulf between the endowment of their education and that 
of men, the quiet abolition of the quota in January 1957 brought a 
chapter of history very near to a close. With the end of "outdated 
limitations" a revolution lasting for approximately a century had 
almost reached fulfilment. 

Its final triumph came on October 20, 1959, when a statute promul- 
gated in Congregation changed the status of the women's colleges 
from ' societies ' to that of full colleges. It was moved, again without 
opposition, by Sir Maurice Bowra, who described his proposal as 
"the end of a series of changes by which the university is gradually 
coming to recognize that the women's colleges do a most remarkable 
work." He added that the university owed them this "final act of 
franchise" for the high standards that their heads had set, the 
academic successes they had achieved, and "the high degree of pre- 
sentability of their charges." 18 

The new statute made the heads of the women's colleges, subject 
to the Chancellor's approval, eligible for the Vice-Chancellorship. 
Women were also to be appointed as Proctors, known as "represen- 
tatives of the women's colleges", who would not be asked to patrol 
the streets but would be able to sit on all the bodies concerned with 
the day- to-day business of the university. They would thus have 
equal opportunities with the men of gaining experience in university 

Exactly eighty years and one week after the establishment of Lady 
Margaret Hall and Somerville, the women's colleges achieved equal 
status with the men's. Women at Oxford had finally ceased to be a 
class apart. Henceforward their story would belong to the history of 
Oxford University, and the history of the university would be theirs. 

Epilogue; The Future? 

LJoes the fragment of history now completed suggest what the future 
of the Oxford women's colleges is likely to be? Will the Oxford 
Magazine^ challenging description, "an unassimilated minority in 
our midst," become totally outdated in the years ahead? 

Foreign students of education from countries with populations 
comparable in size to the population of Britain can hardly be criti- 
cized if they are unfavourably impressed by the small size of that 
minority and by the difficulties with which it still contends in spite of 
the many that it has overcome. Such evidence as we possess suggests 
that the answer to its problems is now mainly financial. 

The total size of Britain's student body roughly one student for 
every thousand of the population (see page 182, n.i) in itself indi- 
cates a disturbing and widespread indifference to educational oppor- 
tunities. The fact that women students number only one- third of 
this tiny group of relatively well-educated citizens, and at Oxford 
represent a mere one-sixth of the undergraduate body, may well be 
regarded as the consequence of a shameful failure to recognize 
their responsibilities to the community on the part of the British 
Treasury authorities 1 and of Britain's own wealthier women (few 
compared with their counterparts in the United States, but not non- 

Readers of this book will probably have noted that two out of the 
only three really munificent donations presented to the women's col- 
leges since their foundation (the gifts to Lady Margaret Hall and 
St Anne's) have come from American sources. St Hugh's alone has 
benefited on a large scale from the wealth of one British woman. 

Professional women who have themselves been products of the 
Oxford colleges (such as Lady Woolley and Winifred Holtby from 
Somerville, and Mrs Lee and Miss G. M. Morgan from St Hilda's, 

1 The sum allocated each year by the British Treasury to all British universities 
is roughly approximate to that annually allocated by the State of California alone 
to the University of California. 


as well as the many who have given such smaller sums as they could 
afford to help their successors), have been more generous with their 
limited earnings than most owners of substantial fortunes. 

If the women's colleges are ultimately to be freed from strin- 
gency and restriction, and those whom they educate to be enabled to 
reach out to the wider horizons which Oxford men (sometimes with 
the help of endowments from women) have commanded for cen- 
turies, the future requires one more revolution in values which is 
already overdue. The story of the Oxford women's colleges awaits 
this final happy ending. 

Appendix i 

The Relationship between Classes in Schools 
and Subsequent Careers 

In 1950 a correspondent, Mrs Chapman, wrote to the Oxford Magazine, 
suggesting that it should publish a list of graduates who made dis- 
tinguished names after getting Third- or Fourth-class Honours, or en- 
countering some even worse disaster, in their Final Schools. It would be 
such an encouragement to disappointed candidates, she said. Perhaps she 
had in mind the career of A. E. Housman, who became not only a poet 
but a Cambridge professor after * ploughing' in Greats. 

The Magazine did not respond, but the relationship between examina- 
tion results and the candidate's later career is a fruitful subject of study. 
In the tables below I have attempted to perform for women graduates 
the service suggested by Mrs Chapman, in so far as these lists summarize 
the classes and careers of some of the better-known Oxford women men- 
tioned in this book. 

First-class Honours are usually considered essential for an important 
academic post. The first table, which is confined to women in the 
academic life of Oxford, does indicate that most though not all dis- 
tinguished college tutors have obtained Firsts. 

The second table shows that by far the largest number of outstanding 
Oxford women in non-academic public life (the writers, politicians, and 
social workers) took Seconds. Several well-known names which I could 
have included indicate that a Third and perhaps even a Fourth is not 
necessarily an impediment to future success. A girl with energy and 
ambition may find that a disappointing Schools result is an incentive to 
subsequent accomplishment by way of compensation. 

The occasional lack of any apparent connexion between classes in 
Schools and future fame is no doubt partly due to the Oxford system of 
testing three or four years* work in one critical week. Should that week 
coincide with ill-health, family anxiety, or an excruciating love-affair, this 
misfortune is bound to affect the examination results. 

A good examinee, for whom one dramatic week of effort may bring 

triumph, is not necessarily the best worker in terms of industry, insight, 

and the power to stay the course (this last quality of persistence often 

being more closely related to achievement than spectacular brilliance). 



Good examinees are usually extroverts; long-term workers, especially in 
a creative category, are more often introverts. 

The conclusion would seem to be that Oxford's hectic Schools week is 
an unreliable test of a student's real quality. The American and Canadian 
system of annual tests probably produces a clearer indication of his or her 



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Appendix z 
Women Guest Speakers at tlie Oxford Union 

1908. Millicent Garrett Fawcett 1 spoke in support of the motion "That 
in the opinion o this House the time has come when the Government 
should be urged to remove the electoral disabilities o women/' Motion 
lost by 329-360 votes. 

'November 1926. Lucy S. Sutherland, graduate student, President of the 
Somerville Debating Society, spoke fourth against the motion "That 
the women's colleges should be levelled to the ground." Motion won by 
25 votes. 

June 2, 7927. Margery Fry, Principal of Somerville, spoke fifth in sup- 
port of the motion "That the penal system of England is a disgrace to 
the country." Motion won 86-41 votes. 

January /9JJ. E. M. Ruth McKee (St Hugh's) and Helen B. de Monil- 
pied (Lady Margaret Hall) spoke fourth and fifth to the motion "That 
the Proctorial system is an anomaly in a modern University and should 
be replaced by some measure of student self-government." Motion de- 
feated by 14 votes (151-165). The first time women undergraduates had 
spoken in a Union debate. 

February 1935. Megan Lloyd George, M.P., spoke to the motion "That 
this House prefers Mr Lloyd George's New Deal to Socialism.'* Motion 
won 266-261 votes. 

May 1935. M. P. Moxom (St Hilda's) and Ruth McKee (St Hugh's) 
spoke third and fourth to the motion "That at the present time the con- 
ception of everything for the State, nothing outside the State, nothing 
against the State, is the sole adequate basis for self-realization of the 

November 1935. Dorothy L. Sayers, writer, spoke fifth in support of 
the motion "That the present excessive indulgence in the solution of 
fictitious crime augurs ill for our national future." 

December 1936. Joan Randell (Home Students) opposed, and Anne 
Harrison (Somerville) spoke third to the motion "That this House would 
support a measure under which separation, whether voluntary or judicial, 
should mature into divorce at the end of three years, at the petition of 
either spouse." 

1 In The Oxford Union 1823-1923 (Chapter XVI, page 300) H. A. Morrah states 
after a reference to Mrs Fawcett: "Mrs Humphry Ward also kid the society under 
an obligation by addressing it," but the date and subject of the debate are not given. 


November 1938. Anne Harrison (Somerville) spoke fourth to the 
motion "That war between nations can sometimes be justified." 

February 1959. Lady Astor, M.P., spoke fifth to the motion "That 
the future of the working classes lies with progressive Conservatism." 
Motion lost by 5 votes. 

May 1939- Ellen Wilkinson, M.P., spoke fifth to the motion "That 
this House demands that Chamberlain should go." 

November 1941. Mrs Corbett Ashby, Vice-Chairman of the Liberal 
Party, spoke fourth to the motion "That it would be a mistake to believe 
that the future of the country after the war depends on the victory of the 
Liberal Party." 

December 1941. Sheila Rogers (St Hugh's) spoke seventh to the 
motion "That this House believes in the equality of the sexes." Motion 
lost by 96 votes to 104. 

December 1942. Betty Evans (Westfield College; evacuated to Oxford) 
spoke sixth to the motion "That this House deplores the Party 

June 1944. The Hon. Honor Balfour spoke sixth against the motion 
"That this House approves of the present Colonial policy of H.M. 

October 1944. Dr Edith Summerskill, M.P., spoke fifth in support of 
the motion "That in the opinion of this House a State Medical Service 
can alone ensure a first-class standard of National Health." Motion carried 
by 156 votes to 147. 

November 1944. Lady Astor, M.P., spoke fifth in support of the 
motion "That to ensure proper replanning of Town and Country the 
State should acquire the development rights in land." Motion won 148 
votes to in. 

November 1945. Barbara Ward, Assistant Editor of The Economist, 
spoke in support of the motion "That this House considers disastrous 
the United Nations policy concerning the future of Germany." Motion 
carried 354 votes to 120. 

October 1946. Dr Edith Summerskill, M.P. (deputizing for Food 
Minister, John Strachey), spoke fifth to the motion "That this House 
applauds the Government's domestic policy." Motion defeated 424 votes 
to 375. 

March 1949. Florence M. J. Elliott (St Hilda's), the first undergraduate 
to address the Union for several years, spoke in favour of the motion 
"That this House would regard as morally right the provision of free 
birth-control clinics under the National Health Service." Motion won 
196 votes to 172. 

May 1951. Anne Chesney (Somerville) spoke fourth to the motion 
(Eights Week Debate) "That this House prefers Caesar to Cleopatra." 

October /#5/. Vera Brittain, writer, spoke fifth in support of the 


motion "That this House prefers a Labour Government to any fore- 
seeable alternative." Motion lost 264-419 votes. 

May 1952. Dr Edith Summerskill, M.P., spoke fifth in the debate 
"That in the opinion of this House the Conservative Party has betrayed 
the electorate." 

May 29, 1952. Caroline Carter (Lady Margaret Hall) supported the 
motion "That this House deplores the present state of inequality for 
women." Motion won 171 votes to 163. 

November 1952. Lady Violet Bonham Carter spoke fifth in support of 
the motion "That this House sees no sufficient cause to abandon bi- 
partisanship in British foreign policy." 

February 12, 7953. Barbara Castle, M.P., spoke fifth in the debate 
"That cuts in the Social Services should play no part in any solution to 
our economic problems." Motion lost 126-152. 

May 1953. Sheila Graucob (Lady Margaret Hall) spoke seventh in the 
debate "That Oxford is too far behind the times." Motion lost 103-167. 

November 1953. The Countess of Listowel spoke fourth in the debate 
"That the Western Powers have failed since 1945 to understand and meet 
the challenge of Communism." Motion carried 329 votes to 164. 

February 23, 1954- Lady Megan Lloyd George spoke fifth in a tele- 
vised "Extraordinary Debate" on the motion "That this House prefers 
the security of the Welfare State to the uncertainty of the first Elizabethan 
Age." Motion carried 427240 votes. 

May 1954* Nandini Mehta (Lady Margaret Hall) spoke sixth to the 
motion "We need in our time the way of Martha rather than the way 
of Mary." Motion lost 60 votes to 140. 

October 1954* Miss C. A. Lejeune, film critic, The Observer, spoke 
fifth in the debate "That in the opinion of this House Censorship of the 
Arts is an unwarranted interference with personal liberty." 

November 1954. Lady Violet Bonham Carter spoke fifth in the debate 
"That this House would welcome changes in the privileges and practices 
of the British Trade Unions." Motion carried 338-200 votes. 

January 1955. Dr Marie Stopes spoke fifth in the debate "That the 
world would be a better place without the political power and influence 
of the Roman Catholic Church." Motion carried 339-313 votes. 

February 1955. Mrs Mary Adams, Director of B.B.C. Television Talks 
Features, spoke fifth in the debate "That the Artist has forgotten that 
Art belongs to the people." 

May 1955. Margaret Bennett (King's College, London), E. Arnot 
Robertson, writer, Valerie Catmur (Somerville), and Sylvia Pankhurst 
spoke to the motion "That this House regrets that Woman, having risen 
up in Emancipation, is again sitting down and being dictated to." Motion 
carried 180-168 votes. 

Appendix $ 

Some Distinguished Unacademic Women 
associated with Oxford Colleges and the University 1 

Miss Eleanor Smith. Organizer of an abortive series of lectures and 
classes for women in 1866. Sister of Henry Smith, the Professor of 
Geometry at Balliol. Served on Somerville Council, 1881-96. 

Mrs Humphry Ward (Mary Arnold). Joint Secretary (with Mrs Creigh- 
ton) o the Lectures for Ladies Committee, 1873. Somerville Council, 
1881-98. Died 1920. 

Mrs Mandell Creighton (Laura). Member of the first Oxford Com- 
mittee for Lectures for Ladies, 1873. Joint Secretary with Mrs Ward. 

Mrs Edward Talbot. Wife of Dr Edward Talbot of Keble, the founder 
of Lady Margaret Hall. Member of Lectures Committee. 

Clara Pater. Sister of Walter Pater. Though without any academic 
qualification, she became Somerville' s first tutor and later Vice-Principal. 

Mrs Arnold Toynbee (Charlotte Atwood). Widow of Arnold Toynbee, 
who died aged thirty in 1882. Treasurer of Lady Margaret Hall till 1920. 
Died 1931, aged ninety. 

Mrs Mar\ Pattison (Emilia Francis). Wife of the Rector of Lincoln and 
later of Sir Charles Dilke. 

Hon. Mrs Vernon Harcourt. Second daughter of Lord Aberdare. 
Somerville Council, 1881-1904. Died 1927. 

Mrs T. H. Green (Charlotte Byron). Widow of Professor Thomas Hill 
Green. Somerville Council, 1884-1929. Died 1929. 

Dame Sybil Thorndi\e. Played in The Trojan Women at Oxford dur- 
ing the 1918 Peace Conference. 

H.M. Queen Mary. First woman to receive an honorary D.C.L. at 
Oxford, 1921. 

Miss Lilian Baylis. Founder of the Old Vic. Hon, M.A. conferred on 
her, 1924. 

Dame Ethel Smyth. Received the Hon. degree of Mus. Doc., 1926. 

Carola Oman (Lady Lenanton). Biographer and novelist. First novel 
published 1926. 

Kate Nor gate. Historian of the first three Angevin reigns. Made Hon. 
Fellow of Somerville at the Jubilee celebrations, 1929. 

1 This list is not intended to be complete, but to indicate the wide range of in- 
terests characteristic of unacadernic women connected with the university. 


Mrs Reginald Lane Poole. Catalogued the portraits owned by the uni- 
versity, colleges, and county of Oxford. First volume published 1912; 
series completed 1926. A founder of the Bach Choir; member of the 
A.E.W. Council, 1892-1911; member of Delegacy of Women Students, 
1910-21, and of the Delegacy for Home Students, 1921-25. Awarded 
Hon. M.A. 1932. Died 1937. 

Miss Clara Evelyn Mordan. Died 1915 > Benefactors of St Hugh's 

Miss Mary Gray Allen. Died 1928 / College. 

H.R.H. the Duchess of Yor\ (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother). 
Received the Hon. D.C.L. 1931. 

Mrs Jessie Payne Margoliouth. Syriac scholar who worked with her 
husband on her father's vast Thesaurus Syriacus, completed 1901. Died 

Alderman Miss L. S. Tawney. The first woman to be Mayor of Oxford 
(1933). Served on Oxford Council from 1917. Awarded the O.B.E. 1939. 

Miss Ethel Bellamy. Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and 
Assistant in the Oxford Observatory. Made Hon. M.A. for her work with 
her uncle, Mr F. A. Bellamy, on the Astrographic Catalogue for the 
Vatican Observatory, completed 1933. 

Mrs Weldon. Made Hon. M.A. 1926 for her gift of pictures to the 
collection at the Ashmolean. Helped the museum to purchase Blake's 
drawings illustrating the Divina Commedia. Large new gallery in the 
Ashmolean called after her. Died 1936. 

Mrs H. M. Allen. Hon. D.Phil, conferred on her, 1936, for her work 
with her husband, Dr P. S. Allen (and later with Mr H. H. Garrod), 
on his comprehensive edition of the correspondence of Erasmus. Elected 
to an Hon. Fellowship at St Hilda's College 1944. 

Mrs Constance Eurch. From 1899 to 1914 organized a system of instruc- 
tion in English for foreign students, combined with a hall of residence 
at 28 Norham Road. Students numbering 2026 passed through her hands. 
Did not reopen Norham Hall after War, though applications amounted 
to ^3000 in fees. Died 1937. 

Miss May Morris. Left her Kelmscott Estate to the university (1939), 
with ^3000 for its upkeep, to be a house of rest for artists, authors, 
scholars, and scientists. (Kelmscott Manor was the house at which D. G. 
Rossetti settled with William Morris in 1871.) 

Lady Poulton. Member of Somerville Council for fifty-five years (1884 
1939). Attended 313 meetings out of a possible 373. Died 1939. 

Miss A. Bradbury. Elected to succeed Colonel A. C. H. Duke as Home 
Bursar at Balliol, June 1939, after five years as a stewardess at Gonville 
and Caius, Cambridge. 

Mrs Margaret Maitland. Secretary of the Oxford Subscription Concerts, 
1924-42. Good pianist and generous patron of deserving musicians. Died 
January 1942, a month after the death of her only son. 


H.M. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Received the degree of 
D.C.L. by diploma on October 14, 1943. 

"Miss L. Chadwic\. Headmistress 190743 of the Oxford Girls' Central 
School. Awarded an Hon. M.A. in November 1943 for a "lifetime of 
work under the walls of the University.'* 

Mrs Coo\e. Caretaker of the Sheldonian Theatre 1901-45. 

Mrs Arthur Butler. The oldest woman in Oxford when she died in June 
1946 aged ninety-four. Niece of Maria Edgeworth and wife of A. G. Butler, 
Fellow and Dean of Oriel. Staunch supporter of university music. Visited 
the aged inmates of Cowley Workhouse every week for over fifty years. 

Mrs H. T. Gerrans (Anna Elizabeth English). Canadian-born wife and 
widow of H. T. Gerrans, Fellow and Mathematics Tutor of Worcester 
College. Secretary to her husband and also for the Local examinations. 
After his death in 1921 became Hon. Treasurer for twelve years at Barnett 
House. Died 1946. 

Mrs A. L. Smith. Published her memoirs of her husband, the Master 
of Balliol, in 1929. Married life of forty-five years, with nine children and 
several grandchildren. Died 1947, aged nearly ninety. 

H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth, later Queen. Received D.C.L. by diploma, 
May 1948. 

Mrs F. D. Roosevelt. Received the Hon. degree of D.C.L., 1948. 

Mrs Edward S. Hardness (Mary Stillman). American benefactor of 
Lady Margaret Hall who became interested in the college after attending 
the musical recitals of the college Choirmaster, Margaret Deneke, in New 
York in aid of the college fund. Died 1950. 

Mrs Amy Hartland. American-born benefactor of the Home Students 
and St Anne's. Died 1945. 

H.R.H. Princess Margaret. Visited Oxford, October 1950, to open the 
Forestry Institute. In 1954 visited St Hilda's to receive purses for the 
College Building Fund. 

Mrs Hugh Walls (later Mrs L. S. Creasy). Gave gift of ^10,000 to the 
university for the development of Psychology, which laid the foundations 
for the new Honours School of Psychology established 1947. 

Mrs Dorothy Frances Allen. Wife of Dr (later Sir) C. K. Allen, Warden 
of Rhodes House. In 1952 received the Hon. M.A. for her work in receiv- 
ing and housing the wives and families of Rhodes Scholars who came 
up after the War. 

Mrs Freeborn. In 1953, at the age of ninety-five, published a book on 
the connexion between the Royal Houses of Britain and Oxford City and 
University. Had lived in the city for sixty-six years. 

Dame Edith Evans. Received Hon. degree of D.Litt, 1954. 

Dame Ninette de Valois. Received Hon. degree of D.Litt., 1955. 

Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias. Received Hon. degree of Mus. Doc. 


BAILEY, GEMMA (ed.): A Short History of Lady Margaret Hall, 

1923 (privately printed by the Oxford University Press, 1923). 
BALSDON, DACRE: Oxford Life (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1957). 
BRITTAIN, VERA: Testament of Youth (Gollancz, 1933). 
BUTLER., RUTH F., and M. H. PRICHARD (ed.): The Society of Oxford 

Home Students: Retrospects and Recollections, i #79 1927 (printed 

for private circulation, Oxonian Press, Queen Street, Oxford, 1938). 
BUTLER, RUTH F.: A History of St Anne's Society, 1921-1946 (privately 

printed by the Oxford University Press). Supplement 1946 19 53 by 

M. D. R. Leys, 1957). 

COURTNEY, JANE E.: Recollected in Tranquillity (Heinemann, 1926). 
An Oxford Portrait Gallery (Chapman and Hall, 1931). 
The Women of My Time (Lovat Dickson, 1934). 
DENEKE, HELENA: Grace Hadotv (Oxford University Press, 1946). 
FABER, SIR GEOFFREY: Jowett, A Portrait with Background (Faber and 

Faber, 1957). 
FARNELL, VERA: A Somervillian Loo^s Bac\ (privately printed by the 

Oxford University Press, 1948). 

Handboo^ to the University of Oxford (Clarendon Press, 1959). 
HOBMAN, D. L.: Go Spin, You Jade! (C. A. Watts, 1957). 
IREMONGER, LUCILLE: The Ghosts of Versailles (Faber and Faber, 1957). 
Letters of Gertrude Bell, The (ed. Lady Bell; Benn, 1927). 
LODGE, E. C. (ed. Janet Spens): Terms and Vacations (Oxford University 

Press, 1938). 
MALLETT, SIR C. E.: A History of the University of Oxford, volume iii, 

Modern Oxford (Methuen, 1927). 
MARSHALL, MARY PALEY: What I Remember (Cambridge University Press, 

MASTERMAN, J. C.: To Teach the Senators Wisdom; or, An Oxford Guide- 

Boo\ (Hodder and Stoughton, 1952). 
MOBERLY, C. A. E., and E. F. JOURDAIN: An Adventure (ed. Joan Evans; 

first published 1911; Faber and Faber, 1955). 
OLIVIER, EDITH: Four Victorian Ladies of Wiltshire. II. Miss Annie 

Moberly (Faber and Faber, 1945). 
P. E. P.: Graduate Wives, based on an inquiry by Mrs Judith Hubback 


(Planning, volume xx, No. 361, 16 St Anne's Gate, London, S.W.I, 

April 1954). 

Graduate Wives' Tales (Planning, volume xx, No. 365, May 1954). 
PECK, WINIFRED: A "Little Learning (Faber and Faber, 1952). 
PERCIVAL, ALICIA C.: The "English Miss To-day and Yesterday (Harrap, 

I 939>- 

RHONDDA, VISCOUNTESS: This was My World (Macmillan, 1933). 

ROGERS, ANNIE M. A. H.: Degrees by Degrees (Oxford University Press, 

ROYDEN, MAUDE: A Threefold Cord (Gollancz, 1947). 

STEPHEN, BARBARA (Lady): Girton College, 18691932 (Cambridge Uni- 
versity Press, 1933). 

STOCKS, MARY D.: Eleanor Rathbone (Gollancz, 1949). 

STRACHEY, RAY: "The Cause": A Short History of the Women's Move- 
ment in Great Britain (Bell, 1928). 

Victoria County History of Oxfordshire,, volume iii (articles on women's 

WORDSWORTH, ELIZABETH: Glimpses of the Past (Mowbray, 1912). 

Wordsworth Memorial Number of Lady Margaret Hall Brown Book,, 


Also The Times, the Oxford Magazine, the Oxford University Gazette, 
A.E.W. Reports, college Registers, college Reports and Chronicles, uni- 
versity and undergraduate magazines, reviews and pamphlets. 


ABELL, ROSE, 101/2. 

Acworth, Brian, 226 

Adam, Miss M. G., 196 

Adams, Mrs Mary, 257 

Adler, Daisy Lucie (Mrs J. B. Hobman), 


Adventure, An (Moberly and Jourdain), 
79, 114-116, 164, 192 

Ady, Dr Cecilia Mary, 113-114, 162, 
163, 166, 245 

Aitken, Mrs Robert, 117 

Ajgaonkar, S., 177 

Aldis, Mr and Mrs W. S., 67 

Allen, Mrs Dorothy Frances, 260 

Allen, Mrs H. M., 259 

Allen, Mary Gray, 141, 173-174, 259 

Appointments Committees, 229-230, 
232, 233, 235 

Argles, Edith, 54 

Armstrong, Professor Edward, 127 

Arnold, Julia Frances (Mrs Leonard 
Huxley), 62, 83, 248 

Arnold, Matthew, 38, 43, 47 

Ashby, Mrs Corbett, 256 

Asquith, Lady Helen, 177 

Association for the Education of Women 
(A.E.W.), 59> 7-7*> 9*> 105, "^ 
126, 140, 161, 185; founded, 4953; 
first two halls, 50-51; early finances, 
52; and Home Students, 62-63; P et *- 
tion for women to be allowed to sit 
for Honours, 66; tutorial system, 82 
83, 88-89; tension with increasingly 
independent halls, 89-90, 100, 104, 
132-133; move to Clarendon Build- 
ing, 95; and degrees for women, 106; 
last meeting of, 154-155 

Astor, Lady, 256 

Astrid, Princess, of Norway, 223 

AthoU, Duchess of, 160 

Atwood, Charlotte (Mrs Arnold Toyn- 
bee), 47, 74, 141, 186, 258 

Austin, Mrs John (Jean Coutts), 200 

BAILEY, GEMMA, 70, 232 
Balfour, Arthur, 47 
Balfour, Hon. Honor, 256 

Ballinger, Mrs Margaret, M.P. (Violet 

M. L. Hodgson), 144, 251 
Balliol College, 38, 47, 57, 71, 75, 81, 95, 

II2-II3, 136, 157, 195, 222, 237#. 

Barker, Professor Ernest, 117 

Barnett, Canon S. A., 179/2. 

Barnett House, 118, 132, 160, 179 

Barry, Rev. F. R., 186 

Bates, Katharine L, 101/2. 

Baumgartel, Frau, 184 

Bayley, Mrs J. O. (Iris Murdoch), 247 

Baylis, Lilian, 258 

Beale, Dorothea, 33, 41, 50, 109; and 
Cheltenham Ladies* College, 28, 32, 
83, 102-103 ; and St Hilda's Hall, 102- 
105, 126, 229 

Beaufort, Lady Margaret, 53 

Bedford College, 28, 31, 33, 35, 120, 126 

Bell, Gertrude, 73, 76-77, 248 

Bell, K.N., 198 

Bellamy, Ethel, 259 

Beloff, Leah Norah, 187, 254 

Bennett, Margaret, 257 

Benson, Ada, 31, 52/7. 

Benson, Eleanor, 75 

Benson, Margaret, 75 

Betts (later Castle), Barbara, 190, 221, 

. 2 57 

Bieber, Frau Doktor Margaret, 184 
Binyon, Nicolette Mary (Mrs Basil 

Gray), 177, 253 
Birkbeck College, 28 
Bishop, Miss (Oxford High School 

head), 52/2. 

Bishop, Miss M. J., 232 
Blakiston, Dr, 198/2. 
Blomfield, Sir Reginald, 161 
Bodichon, Barbara, 67 
Bonham Carter, Lady Violet, 257 
Bowra, Sir Maurice, 212, 236, 238 
Bradbury, Miss A., 259 
Bradby, Barbara (Mrs J. L. Hammond), 

93, 96, 249 

Bradley (later Woods), Margaret, 46 
Brett, Lionel, 218 
Briant, Keith, 189 
Brierly, Professor J. L., 184 


Brittain, Vera, 256 

Broster, D. K., 105, 156, 249 

Brown, Mrs Staples (Princess Makareti), 

178 ^ 

Browning, Robert, 38, 47, 102 
Bruce, Hon. Alice Moore, 62, 90, 91, 

121, 142, 180, 210 
Bruce, Hon. Isabel, 62 
Buckland, Herbert T., 141, 174, 193, 217 
Burch, Mrs Constance, 259 
Burgon, Dean John, 57, 69 
Burgoyne, Elizabeth, 76 
Burrows, Christine Mary Elizabeth, 48, 

62, 93, 190; Principal of St Hilda's, 

104, 124, 127, 142; Principal of Home 

Students, 161-163, 178-179 
Burrows, Mrs Esther Elizabeth, first 

Principal of St Hilda's, 101, 104, 127, 

161, 179, 190, 207 
Burton, Rachel, i76. 
Buss, Frances Mary, 28, 31, 32, 33 
Butcher, S. H., 49, 51 
Butler, Mrs Arthur, 260 
Butler, C. V., 142 
Butler, Josephine, 24, 25, 35, 36 
Butler, Ruth, 61, 101, 137, 142, 155, 

158, 160, 179, 197, 198, 199^. 
Buxton, Eglantyne Roden, 177 
Byron, Charlotte (Mrs T. H. Green, 

By water, Professor Ingram, 64, 122 


Cairns, Professor Sir Hugh, 205 

Cambridge University, 22, 47, 106; expe- 
rimental examination for girls, 32-33, 
34; and Higher Local, 35; admits 
women to Tripos, 36-37, 66-67, 70; 
rejects degrees for women, 109, 133; 
gives 'titular' degrees, 154^.; grants 
degrees, 214-215 

Cannan, Charles, 96, 97 

Cannon, Annie, 160 

Carroll, Lewis, 63-64, 107 

Carter, Caroline, 257 

Cartwright, Mary, 222, 235 

Casaubon, Isaac, 4j. 

Castle, Barbara, 190, 221, 257 

Catlin, Shirley, 227 

Catmur, Valerie, 257 

Cave, George, Viscount, 167, 174 

Cecil of Chelwood, Lord, io8w., 173 

"Certificate of Merit/* 112 

Chadwick, Miss L., 260 

Chagin, Ina, 137 

Challans, Mary, 177 

Champneys, Basil, 74 

Chance, Alice, M.B., 149 

Chaperonage, 75, 92, 127, 154-155, *59 


Chapman, Mrs, 241 

Chatter jee, Kamala Sircar, Mrs, 177 

Cheltenham College for Young Ladies, 
28, 31, 32, 41, 64, 83-84, 97, 102-103, 
104, 126, 169 

Cherwell Hall, 174 

Chesney, Anne, 256 

Chesney, Kathleen, 188 

Christ Church, 104, 136, 138, 147, 218 

Christian Socialist Movement, 27 

Clarke, Maude Violet, 143, 187, 188, 
191, 206, 246 

Clough, Anne Jemima, 35, 36, 59, 106 

Clough, Arthur Hugh, 38 

Coate, Mary, 188, 206, 245 

Cobbe, Frances Power, 32 

Coltman, Rev. C. (Constance M. Todd), 

Common Cause , The., 98, 99 

Congregation, 112, 222; rejects degrees 
for women, 108; Curzon's proposed 
reforms, 129-130; women admitted 
to, 130, 151, 154, 158; and "Women's 
Statute," 152; demands limitation of 
numbers, 171-172, 236; and higher 
status of women's colleges, 238 

Convocation: and religious tests, 21-22, 
24; Curzon's proposed reforms, 129; 
women admitted to, 130, 151, 154, 

Cooke, Mrs (Sheldonian caretaker), 260 

Coombs, Edith Anna, 83, n8. 

Cooper, Sir Edwin, 190 

Cooper, Lettice Ulpha, 143 

Corpus Christi College, 71 

Coupland, Sir Reginald, 223 

Courtney, Dame Kathleen, 98, 249 

Courtney, Leonard, M.P,, 37 

Courtney, W. L., 75 

Courtney, Mrs W. L. (Janet Hogarth), 
41, 43, 72, 74, 75, 1^> 77, 8x, 99, 102, 

Coutts, Jean (Mrs John Austin), 200 

Creighton, Mandell, Bishop of London, 
41, 43, 63 

Creighton, Mrs Mandell, 41, 44, 258 

Cropper, Eleanor Margaret (Lady Ac- 
land), 96 

Crowfoot, Dorothy Mary (Mrs Thomas 
Hpdgkin), 247 

Curtis, Dame Myra, 215 

Curzon, Lord, 129-131, 151, 164, 167 


Darbishire, Helen, 61, 118, 122, 142, 

200, 210, 244; Principal of Somerville, 

183, 201 202, 206, 207 
Davies, Emily, 32-35, 36, 67 
Dawson, Janet Elizabeth, 213 
De Gaulle, Elizabeth Jacqueline, 199 

Degrees by Degrees (Rogers), 380., 70, 108, 
151, 193 

Degrees for women: refused, 106-110; 
Curzon's proposals, 129-132, 134; 
Delegacy for Women and, 131-132, 
149 ; granting of, 148-1 5 3 ; first degree- 
giving ceremony, 155-157; honorary, 
157, 160 

Delegacy for Home Students, 162-163 

Delegacy for Local Examinations, 66, 
67, 131 

Delegacy for Women Students, 126, 
131-133, 135, 149, 154, 162, 219-220 

Deneke, Helena Clara, 125, 142, 146, 150 

Deneke, Margaret, 184, 186, 260 

Devorguila, 22/2. 

Dicey, Professor A. V., 106 

Dodgson, Rev. C. L. (Lewis Carroll), 
63-64, 107 

Dodgson, Violet, 133 

Donelly, Lucy M., loiw. 

Draper, Ruth, 218 

Dress, academic, 153-154, 158 

Dreydel, Anne, 222-223 

Drummond, Miss I. M., 101 

Dulce Domum (Moberly), 79, 114 

Dunne, J. W., 115 

EARLE, M. R., 62 

Eastwood, Mrs (Oxford's first woman 

Doctor of Medicine), 176 
Eaton, Gertrude, 170 
Education Act (1870), 31, 32 
Eisenhower, President Dwight D., 205 
Eliot, George, 45 

Elizabeth II, H.M. Queen, 228, 260 
Elizabeth the Queen Mother, H.M. 

Queen (as Duchess of York), 160, 259 
Elliot, Florence M. J., 224, 256 
El-Solh, Alia, 223 
Elstob, Elizabeth, 24 
Elstob, Mrs, 194 
Emmet, Hon. Mrs T. A. (Evelyn Violet 

EHzabeth Rodd), 143 
Endowed Schools Act (1869), 34 
Englishwoman* s Journal^ 31 
Escreet, Henrietta Caroline, 119 
Esdaile, Katharine Ada, 116, 185 
Evans, Lady, 106 
Evans, Mrs Arthur, 71 
Evans, Betty, 256 
Evans, Dame Edith, 260 
Evans, Dr Joan, 79, 114, 115, 145, 190, 

222, 250 

Everett, Dorothy, 211 
Ewart, Mary, 60 
Exeter College, 71 

84, 160, 211, 248 

INDEX 265 

Farnell, Dr L. R., 107, 154 

Farnell, Vera, 31, 52, 60, 6i., 120, 121, 

139, 142, 155, 171, 180, 187, 245 
Farrell, B. A., 188 
Fawcett, Professor Henry, 36, 47 
Fawcett, Dame Millicent, 44, 146, 209, 


Fawcett, Philippa, 70 
Fellows, allowed to marry, 24, 25, 41 
Firsts: increased number, 201, 221, 224, 

237; proportion of, 237/2., 243-254 
Firth, Sir Charles H., 106 
Fisher, H. A. L.., 113, 128, 138, 187, 197 
Fisher, Mrs H. A. L. (Lettice Ilbert), 

96, 197, 200, 244 

Fisher, Mary Laetitia Somerville, 1 87 
Fone, D. M., 229 

Fonteyn (de Arias), Dame Margot, 260 
Four Victorian Ladies of Wiltshire 

(Olivier), 26, 78-79 
Franks, Sir Oliver, i68w. 
Freeborn, Mrs, 260 
Freer, Miss, 26 
Freire-Marreco (Mrs Robert Aitken), 

Miss, 117 
Fritillary y The, 113 
Fry, Sara Margery, 73, 80, 87, 90, 96, 

127, 142, 193, 207, 255; Librarian of 

Somerville, 91, 170; Principal, 169- 

172, 174, 180, 182-183 
Furneaux, Yvonne, 224 


Gaitskell, Julia, 210 

Gandhi, Mahatrna, 184 

Gardiner, Professor S. K., 76 

Gardner, Helen Louise, 177 

Gardner, Professor Percy, 107, 108 

Garnett, Margaret Christian (Mrs 
Douglas Jay), 187 

Garrett, EHzabeth (later Garrett Ander- 
son), 32 

Garrod, Dr Dorothy, 214 

Garrod, H. H,, 259 

Garvin, Viola, 144 

Gatty, Margaret, 35 

Gelckrt, Professor W. M., 51, 133, 152, 

Gerrans, H. T., 131, 260 

Gerrans, Mrs H. T., 260 

Ghosts of Versailles > The (Iremonger), 
26, 80, 115, 164 

Gjbberd, Kathleen, 145 

Gibson, Winifred Margaret, 145 

Girls' Public Day School Trust, 31 

Girton College, Cambridge, 32, 35-36, 
49> 65 

Gladstone, W. E., 22, 23, 38 

Glimpses of the Past (Wordsworth), 53, 



Godley, A. D., 107, 109 
Gore, Charles, Bishop of Oxford, 75, 112 
Governesses* Benevolent Institution, 27 
Graduate Wives (P.E.P.), 2320., 233-234 
Graduate Wives' Tales (P.E.P.), 234 
Graham, Dr Rose, 96, 176, 188, 223, 


Graucob, Sheila, 257 
Green, John Richard, 43 
Green, Professor Thomas Henry, 38, 44, 

47,49, 51, 8 1 
Green, Mrs T. H. (Charlotte Byron), 38, 

39, 42, 52, 62, 81, 1 80, 258 
Grey, Maria, 31 
Grier, Mary Lynda Dorothy, 191, 208, 

216; Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, 

1 6 1, 201, 206; first woman elected to 

Hebdomadal Council, 161, 172, 190 
Griffith, Sheelagh Marguerita, 200 
Grose, Rev. T. H., 51, 52, 106 
Grylls, Rosalie Glynn (Lady Mander), 

176, 252 
Gwyer, Barbara Elizabeth, 19, 116, 118, 

193, 224; Principal of St Hugh's, 166- 

167, 191, 195, 205, 208 

HADOW, GRACE ELEANOR, 118, 125, 142, 
146, 193, 244; English Tutor at Lady 
Margaret Hall, 118, 124, 143; at 
Barnett House, 160, 179; Principal of 
Home Students, 179 190, 196-197; 
on Hebdomadal Council, 190 

Haigh, L., 82 

Hailsham, 2nd Viscount, 184*;. 

Hale- White, Sir William, 200 

Halifax, Lord, 187, 220 

Hambourg, Sonia, 177 

Hammond, J. L., 93 

Hammond, Mrs J. L. (Barbara Bradby), 
93, 96, 1 88, 249 

Harcourt, Hon. Mrs Vernon, 258 

Harkness, Mrs Edward S. (Mary Still- 
man), 1 8 6, 216, 260 

Hartnan, Elizabeth (Lady Pakenham), 

Harrison, Anne, 255, 256 

Hartland, Mrs Amy G., 179, 219 

Hartland House, 220 

Hartnoll, Phyllis, 222 

Hawkins, Sir John Caesar, 78 

Haythorne, Winifred, 142 

Headlam-Morley, Dr Agnes, 222, 235, 

Hebdomadal Council, 112, 207; and 
degrees for women, 107-108, 129, 
134, 149-150; women eligible for, 
1 54; first woman elected to, 161, 172; 
and limitation of women students, 

Heberden, Dr, 129 

Henderson, Mrs Isobel, 213 

Hicks, Christine Frances (Mrs E. V. 

Knox), 119 
Hill, Octavia, 48 
Hilton, Irene F., 23 3*2. 
Hitchin College (origin of Girton), 3 5 
Hobling, Margaret, 144 
Hobman, Mrs J. B. (Daisy Lucie Adler), 

28., 44, 145 
Hodgkin, Dorothy, 222 
Hodgson, Miss M. J., 254 
Hodgson, Violet Margaret Livingstone 

(Mrs William BalHnger), 144, 251 
Hogarth, Janet Elizabeth (Mrs W. L. 

Courtney, q.v.) 

Holland, Canon Scott, 44, 50 
Holloway, Martin, 109 
Holtby, Winifred, 97, 144, 191-192, 224, 

239, 251 

Holy well House, 162 
Holywell Manor, 195 
Home Students, Society of see Society 

of Oxford Home Students 
Honours examinations: women allowed 

to sit for, 66-70, 1 60; limitations re- 
moved, 112, 151, 155 
Horder, Morley, 175, 187 
Housman, A. K, 241 
Houston, Penelope, 224 
Hubback, Mrs Judith, 233 
Hubbard, Margaret, 224, 247 
Hughes, Helen Campbell, 200 
Hugon, Marianne Cecile Gabrielle, 163, 


Hungarian Student Scholarship Fund, 229 
Huntingdon, Margaret Lane, Countess 

of, 177, 253 
Huxley, Aldous, 62 
Huxley, Sir Julian, 62 
Huxley, Leonard, 62 
Huxley, Mrs Leonard (Julia Arnold), 

62, 83, 248 
Huxley, Thomas, 47 

ILBERT, LETTICE (Mrs H. A. L. Fisher), 

96, 200, 244 
Inge, Mrs, 69 
Ingelow, Jean, 28 
International Federation of University 

Women, 63 
Iremonger, Lucille (Lucille Parks, Mrs 

T. L. Iremonger), 26, 80, 115, 164, 

192, 254 

Irons, Evelyn, 144, 251 
/j/V, 113, 204 

JACKSON, DR (Rector of Exeter), 61 
Jackson, T. Graham, 82 
Jackson, Lady (Barbara Ward), 187, 
223, 253, 256 

Jaeger, Muriel, 120 

Jamison, Evelyn Mary, 92, 98, 124, 142, 
143, 172, 244 

Jay, Mrs Douglas (Margaret Christian 
Garnett), 187 

Jebb, Eglantyne Mary, 126, 179, 250 

Jenkins, Elizabeth, 253 

Jennings, Elizabeth, 224 

Jex-Blake, Henrietta, 86; Principal of 
Lady Margaret Hall, 125-126, 147, 
153, 161, 211-212, 213 

Jex-Blake, Sophia, 28 

Joad, C. E. M., 184^. 

Johnson, Rev. Arthur, 46, 101, 163 

Johnson, Bertha (Mrs Arthur), Princi- 
pal of the Oxford Home Students, 
44, 52, 56, 63, 71, in, 135, 153, 156, 
207, 229 

Jones (later White), Eirene Lloyd, 177, 

Jourdain, Eleanor Frances, 73, 77, 80, 
165-166, 167, 178, 243; and the Ver-^ 
sailles 'adventure,' 114-116, 164, 165; 
Principal of St Hugh's, 140, 141, 153, 
163-165 ; controversy over Miss Ady, 

Jowett, Benjamin, 24, 38, 47, 72, 81, 95 

KARAKA, D. F., 184 

Kay, Leah (Mrs L'Estrange Malone), 


Keble, John, 22, 39 
Keble College, 39, 57, 106 
Keeler, Katharine, ioi. 
Kemp, Edith, 83 
Kemp, Emily G., 186, 187 
Kempson, L. C., 210 
Kendall, E. M. K., 62, win. 
Kennedy, Margaret (Lady Davies), 144, 


Kilroy, Dame Alix, 177, 252 
King, Edward, Bishop of Lincoln, 39 
King-Hall, Commander Sir Stephen, 


Kingsley, Charles, 27 
Kirk, Right Rev. Kenneth, Bishop of 

Oxford, 220 

Kirkaldy, Jane Willis, 180, 185 
Kitchin, Mrs George, 42 
Knox, E. V., 116, 119 
Knox, Mrs E. V. (Christine Frances 

Hicks), 119 
Knox, Winifred see Peck, Lady 

LADY MARGARET HALL, 25, 36, 157, 167, 
175, 182, 200, 206, 209, 231, 239; 
founded, 50-51, 53-57; Anglicanism 
of, 50, 54, 66, 229; original home of, 
5 3-54; Miss Wordsworth its first Prin- 
cipal, 53, 54-57; absence of tutorials, 

INDEX 267 

71-72; early members, 73, 74-77, 
116-117; building extensions, 74, 
130, 141, 216-217; Toynbee Building, 
74, 141, 161; sporting activities, 74, 
93-94; develops tutorial system, 89; 
' tension with A.E.W., 89-90; rejects 
degrees for women, 106; pre-i9i4 
tutors and students, 1 24-1 26 ; becomes 
limited-liability company, 126; new 
central block, 130; war-time students, 
143; inter-war expansion, 161; in- 
corporated, 1 68 ; and "Limitation Sta- 
tute," 171, 172; inter-war students, 176, 
187-188; chapel, 185-186; Deneke 
Building, 216-217; post- War stu- 
dents, 223-224; character of, 229; 
high proportion of Firsts and Seconds, 

Laing, Robert, 46 
Lambert, Hon. Margaret, 176 
Lane, Margaret, Countess of Hunting- 
don, 177, 253 
Lang, Cosmo Gordon, Archbishop of 

Canterbury, 73, 78, 186 
Lascelles, Mary Madge, 183, 246 
Laski, Diana, 187 

Laski, Esther Pearl Marghanita, 188 
Lathbury, Maria (Lady Evans), 106 
Lea, K. M., 188 
Lectures for Ladies (1847), 27, 43-44, 

45-47, 101 

Lee, Mrs (M. E. Warren), 218, 239 
Lees, Beatrice Adelaide, 91, 162 
Lejeune, C. A., 257 
Leubuscher, Frau Doktor, 1 84 
Levett, Professor Ada Elizabeth, 55, 124, 

142, 185, 206, 245 
Leys, Mrs Kenneth (Margaret Hayes 

Robinson), 120 

Liddon, Dr H. P., 39, 49, 50, 57, 63, 69 
"Limitation Statute," 171-173, 179 
Lindsay of Birker, Alexander D., Lord, 

152, 184, 218 
Lindsay, Jean, 234 
Listowel, Countess of, 257 
Litth Learning, ^A. (Peck), 116-117, 119, 


Lloyd George of Dwyfor, David Earl, 146 
Lloyd George, Lady Megan, 255, 257 
Local examinations (Oxford and Cam- 
bridge), girls admitted to, 32-34, 35, 37 
Lodge, Eleanor Constance, 91/2., 92-95, 
96, 97, 124, 141, 192, 243; Vice- 
Principal of Lady Margaret, 93, 126, 
147; first woman D.Litt. Oxon, 175 
London Schoolmistresses' Association, 


London University, 32, 35, 109 
Lorimer, Mrs D. L. R. (Emily Overend), 
117-118, 245 



Lorimer, Hilda Lockhart, 91, 96, 117, 

142, 194, 211, 215, 244 
Luard, C. G., 175 


Macaulay, Mary Helen (Lady Ogilvie), 

Macaulay, Dame Rose, 118-119, 223, 


McGitcheon, Miss K. H., 124, 125, 142 
MacDonald, Sheila, 177 
McDowall (later Esdaile), Katharine 

Ada, 116, 185 

Mackarness, Dr J. F., 49, 53 
McKee, E. M. Ruth, 255 
McKie, Muriel (Mrs Gregory), 200 
McKisack, May, 191, 206, 246 
McMaster, Bryce, 154 
Magdalen College, 112 
Magrath, Dr J. R., 44, 105, 106 
Maitland, Agnes Catherine, 120, 127, 

128; Principal of Somerville, 85, 86- 

88, 90, 91-92, 107, 207 
Maitland, Mrs Margaret, 259 
Major, Kathleen, Principal of St Hilda's, 

178, 208~209, 226. 

Makareti, Princess (Mrs Staples Brown), 

Mallet, Sir Charles, 24, 39^., iiiw., 130, 


Malone, Mrs L'Estrange (LeahKay), 250 
Manchester College, 72 
Mander, Lady (Rosalie Glynn Grylls), 

176, 252 

Mann, Dr Ida, 201, 222 
Mann, Julia de Lacy, Principal of St 

Hilda's, 178, 179, 208, 215, 219, 227, 


Mansfield College, 72 
Margaret, H.R.H. Princess, 236, 260 
Margoliouth, Mrs Jessie, 259 
Marriage, effect on careers, 231-234 
Marriott, Sir John A. R., 95, 117 
Marshall, Mrs Alfred, 47 
Martineau, Harriet, 24 
Mary, H.M. Queen, 157, 160, 258 
Matheson, Mrs Percy, 71 
Maurice, Frederick Denison, 27, 28 
Mechanics* Institute, 28 
Medicine, separate classes for women 

students, 149, 189 
Mehta, Nandini, 257 
Menke, Katharine Elizabeth (Lady 

Woolley), 209 
Mtddlemarch (Eliot), 45 
Mill, John Stuart, 36 
Mitchlson, Lois, 223 
Mitchison, Naomi, 145, 223 
Moberly, Charlotte Anne Elizabeth, 25, 

26, 101, 153, 167; Principal of St 

Hugh's, 78-81, 86, 114, 140-141; 
claim to psychic qualities, 80-81, 115, 
192; and Versailles adventure, 80, 
114-116, 164-166; death, 192 
Moberly, George, Bishop of Salisbury, 

78, 79 

Moberly, Dr Walter, 152 
Moberly, Winifred H., 98, 124, 125, 

142, 178 

Monilpied, Helen B. de, 255 
Montgomery, Viscount, 205 
Mordan, Clara Evelyn> 140-141, 173, 

190, 259 

Morgan, G. M., 218, 239 
Morrah, H. A., 25 5^. 
Morris, May, 259 
Moxom, M. P., 255 
Miiller, Max, 50 
Munro, Mary Isobel, 176, 246 
Murdoch, Jean Iris (Mrs J. O. Bayley), 


Murray, Agnes Elizabeth, 122 
Murray, Professor Gilbert, 122, 137, 

138, 1 80, 200, 212, 213 
Murray, Lady Mary, 212 
Murray, Sir John, 225 
Myres, Sir John Linton, 194 


Nettleship, Lewis, 63, 75 

New College, 113, 136, 147, 195 

New Hall, Cambridge, 21 5. 

Newman, Cardinal, 22 

Newnham College, Cambridge, 36, 47, 

62, 207 

Nightingale, Florence, 30 
Nineham, Ruth, 233 
Norgate, Kate, 180, 258 
North London Collegiate School, 31 
Nuffield College, 191 

OAKELEY, H. O., 197 

Ockendon, Elsie May (Mrs Davies), 


Odium, Doris Maude, 127 
Ogilvie, Sir Frederick, 219 
Ogilvie, Lady (Mary Helen Macaulay), 

145, 220-221 

Ogle, Christine E. M., 200 
OHvier, Edith, 26, 79, 81, 115 
O'Malley, Ida, 98 
Oman, Carola, 258 
Oppenheimer, Sir Ernest, 223 
Oriel College, 139 
Overend, Emily M. (Mrs D. L. R. 

Lorimer), 117-118, 245 
Oxford and Asquith, Herbert Asquith, 

Earl of, 112, 146, 167 
Oxford High School for Girls, 31, 52, 




Oxford Home Students, Society of 
see Society of Oxford Home Students 

Oxford Magazine-, founded, 73 ; quoted, 

Oxford Portrait Gallery, An (Courtney), 
41, 75 

Oxford Social and Political Studies 
Association, 132 

Oxford Union, 38, 41, 107, 171, 184, 
188 235, 255-257 

Oxford University Appointments Com- 
mittee, 229-230, 232, 233, 235 

Oxford University Dramatic Society 
(O.U.D.S.), 94, 226 

Oxford University Players, 94, 226-227 

Oxford Unlimited (Briant), 189 


Painting, Norman, 227 

Pakenham, Lady (Elizabeth Harman), 

176, 223, 253 

Pakenham, Antonia, 223-224 
Pankhurst, Mrs, in 
Pankhurst, Sylvia, 257 
Parkes, Bessie Rayner (later Mme 

Belloc), 31 

Pater, Clara, 42-43, 46, 58, 82, 258 
Pattison, Mark, 23, 28, 43, 44-46, 49, 

Pattison, Mrs Mark (Emilia Francis), 45, 

64, 258 

Pearson, C. H., 157/2. 
Peck, Lady (Winifred Knox), 116-117, 

119, 125, 228, 231, 249 
Pelham, Professor Henry, 96, 128, 133 
Pember, Dr, 180 
Penrose, Dame Emily, 18, 31, jo., 73, 

85, 153, 171, 180; Principal of Somer- 

ville, 120-122, 123, 128129, 139, 140, 

I 5 2 J X 55> J 5^> I ^9> 20 7> receives 

D.C.L., 169; Oxford's first Dame, 

175; death, 200 
Percival, Alicia C., 26, 36 
Percival, Dr John, 44, 49, 59, 69, 71 
Perham, Margery, 145, 176, 191, 223, 


Phelps, DrL. R., 181 
Philippa of Hainault, 22. 
Pickard, Stephanie, 224 
Pickford, Hon. Mary, 117, 250 
Plumer, Hon. Eleanor, 197, 220-221 
Pollock, Sir Frederick, 107 
Poole, Dorothy Lane, 210 
Poole, Rachel Lane, 210, 259 
Poole, Reginald Lane, 210 
Pope, Mildred Katharine, 87, 90, 120, 

141-142, 156, 188, 212-213, 243 
Porter, Mary Winearls, 174 
Poulton, Lady, 259 
Powell, E. Dttys, 177, 252 

Powell, Eleanor, 82, 92 

Powell, Professor York, 72 

Prescott, H. F. M., 126, 223, 251 

Prichard, Mrs (Treasurer, Home Stu- 
dents), 162 

Principles and Methods of University Re- 
form (Curzon), 129-130, 134 

Procter, Adelaide Anne, 28 

Procter, Evelyn E. S., 144, 188; Princi- 
pal of St Hugh's, 208, 216, 245 

Pusey, Dr Edward, 35, 37, 63, 69 


Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, 

137, 144 
Queen's College for Women, 28, 31, 33, 

35, 76 


RadclifFe Infirmary, 187, 196 

Ramsay, Agnata Frances, 67, 70 

Randell, Joan, 255 

Rathbone, Eleanor F., 73, 87, 88, 90, 95- 
97, 99, 128, 142 1 80, 249; Oxford's 
first woman M.P., 175, 209210 

Rawlings, Margaret, 176 

Reade, Charles, 39 

Recollected in Tranquillity (Courtney), 75, 77 

Rhodes Scholars, in 

Rhondda, Viscountess, 119, 120, 250 

Rhys, Olwen, 160, 244 

Richards, Josee, 227 

Richardson, Sir Alfred E., 218 

Robert Elsmere (Ward), 43 

Robertson, E. Arnot, 257 

Robinson, Margaret Hayes (Mrs Ken- 
neth Leys), 1 20 

Rodd, Evelyn Violet Elizabeth (Hon. 
Mrs T. A. Emmet), 143 

Rogers, Annie Mary Anne Henley, 
38., 69-70, 78, 82, 134, 140, 141, 158, 
162, 173, 179, 198, 243; heads list in 
Oxford Senior Locals (1873), 18-19, 
46; on A.E.W. committee, 52-53; 
A.E.W. Secretary, 89, 95 ; and degrees 
for women, 107, 108, 109, 129, 131, 
151, 152; on committees of Delegacy 
for Women, 132, 133; death, 1 92-1 94 

Rogers, Harold, 174 

Rogers, Sheila, 256 

RogerS; Professor Thorold, 46, 52, 53 

Rohde, Eleanor Sinclair, 105 

Room of One* s Own y A (Woolf), 119, 174 

Roosevelt, Mrs F. D., 260 

Royal HoUoway College, 109, 120 

Royden, Dr Agnes Maude, 73, 95, 96, 
97-100, 212, 249 

RufTer, Veronica, 223 

Ruskin, John, 39-40, 58, 74 

Russell, Lord John, 21 




St Anne's College: origin as Society of 
Oxford Home Students (q.v.\ 61, 68; 
name changed to St Anne's Society, 
197-198; American legacy to, 219- 
220, 239; hostels, 219220; incor- 
porated as College, 220-221 

St Hilda's College, 48, 161, 200, 208- 
209, 236; founding of, 102, 103-105; 
expansion, 113, 126-127, 178, 190; 
war-time students, 145 ; incorporated 
as College, 169; suggested limit on 
numbers, 171; South Building, 174; 
inter-war students, 177; Burrows 
Building, 190; Building Fund, 218; 
revised constitution, 219; post- War 
students, 224; character of, 229 

St Hugh's College, 25, 56, 89, 171, 200, 
239; founded as St Hugh's Hall, 77- 
78; Miss Moberly its first Principal, 
78-81, 86; seeks degrees for women, 
1 06; expansion and incorporation as 
College, 113, 140; new buildings, 
141, 190, 217; war-time students, 145; 
Ady-Jourdain controversy, 163-165, 
172; constitutional reforms, 166-169, 
219; Mary Gray Allen Wing, 173- 
174; inter-war students, 177, 190-191; 
Jubilee of, 190; garden, 193; military 
hospital in Second World War, 195; 
Endowment Fund, 201; post- War 
distinctions, 222; character, 229 

Salisbury, third Marquess of, 40 

Samson, Ethel Maude, 96 

Savile House, 195 

Sayers, Dorothy Leigh, 122-124, 156, 
213, 251, 255 

Schools Inquiry Commission, 31, 34 

Schreiner, Olive, 25 

Schweitzer, Dr Albert, 184 

Scott, Charlotte A., 66 

Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert, 186, 220 

Scott, Madeleine, 96 

Scott- James, Anne, 187, 253 

Sebel Desta, Princess, of Ethiopia, 223 

Seconds: value and significance of, 97; 
proportion of, 237, 243-254 

Seward, Margaret, 68, 82 

Sewell, Elizabeth, 46, 50 

Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 
(1919), 1 50, 231 

Shaen, William, 32 

Sharp, Dame Evelyn, 177, 252 

Shaw, W. Hudson, 7* 

Shaw Lefevre, Madeleine Septimia, 85, 
87, 120; first Principal of Somerville, 
57~59> 8 5> 88, 207; death, 138-139 

Shaw-Lefevre, Sir John George, 5 8 

Sheavyn, Phoebe, 91 

Shirref, Miss, 31 

Sidgwick, Professor Arthur, 51, 60, 61, 
71, 106, 107, 108-109, 117, 129, 133 

Sidgwick, Professor Henry, 36 

Sidgwick, Mrs Henry, 133, 207 

Sidgwick, Rose, 117, 147 

Sidgwick, Professor William, 38 

Simpson, Helen (Mrs Denis Browne), 

Sircar, Kamala (later Mrs Chatter jee), 

Slade School, 196 

Smieton, Dame Mary Guillan, 176 

Smith, Dr A. L., 47, 93, 106, 165 

Smith, Mrs A. L., 260 

Smith, Barbara Leigh (Mme Bodichon), 
27, 31,67 

Smith, Eleanor, 37-38, 59, 258 

Smuts, Field-Marshal, 214 

Smyth, Darne Ethel, 160, 258 

Society for the Employment of Women, 

Society of Oxford Home Students, 44, 
45, 68, in, 1 1 8, 160, 176, 177-178, 
210, 221 ; origin of, 61-65 ; Mrs John- 
son Principal of, 100-102, 104, 155; 
growth of, 100, 1 01-102, 132-133, 
148; Miss Burrows Principal of, 161- 
163, 178; new governing body, 162; 
limit on numbers, 172; building fund, 
178-179; Miss Hadow as Principal, 
179, 196-197; Miss Plumer as Prin- 
cipal, 197-198; becomes St Anne's 
Society, 198 

Somerville, Mary, 24, 50, 128 

Somerville, Mary (Mrs R. P. Brown), 
177, 252 

Somerville College, 36, 42-43, 64, 176, 
182, 2i5.; undenominational basis, 
24, 50, 57, 83, 87, 229; founded as 
Somerville Hall, 50-51; Miss Shaw 
Lefevre its first Principal, 57-59; 
first buildings, 59-60, 82; arms and 
college song, 60-6 1; early members, 
73, 83-85, 118-119; constitutional 
questions, 82, 167, 168, 218-219; 
change to College, 88; extends tutor- 
ial system, 88-89, 9""9 I > **7> IZI > 
tension with A.E.W., 89-90; ex- 
tension of buildings, 91-92, 127-129, 
174-175, 187, 217; seeks degrees for 
women, 106, 121, 152, 156; "Parlia- 
ment" of, 113; austerity, 119-120; 
pre-1914 students, 118, 122-124; new 
hall, 1 27-1 2 9 ; as military hospital, 139; 
war-time students, 144 ; suggested limit 
on numbers, 171; and Oxford's first 
woman M.P., 175, 209; inter-war 
students, 177, 187-188; jubilee, 179- 
180; chapel controversy, 186-187; 
East Quadrangle, 187; in Second 


2 7 I 

World War, 196; married woman 
scientist as Principal, 207; Library 
Wing, 217; post- War distinctions, 
221-224; high proportion of Firsts, 

Sorabji, Cornelia, 73, 84-85, 212, 248 

Soulsby, Lucy, 106 

Spens, Janet, 95, 124, 125, 147 

Spooner, Canon Archibald, 44, 117 

Stack, V. E., 207 

Stanley, Dean, 24 

Stanley- Wrench, Margaret, 188 

Starkie, Dr Enid Mary, 144-145, 176, 
221., 246 

Stephen, Lady, 65 

Stillman, Mary (Mrs E. S. Harkness), 
186, 216, 260 

Stocks, Mrs Cheridah, 178 

Stocks, J. L., 134, 192 

Stocks, Mary D. (Mrs J. L.), 91, 95-96, 

^ 97, i34> 196 

Stopes, Dr Mane, 257 

Stubbs, Dr William, 40, 46, 104 

Summerskill, Dr Edith, 256, 257 

Summerskill, Michael, 235 

Sutherland, Lucy Stuart, 171, 176; Prin- 
cipal of Lady Margaret Hall, 206 
236, 246, 255 

Sykes, Ella, 74 

TALBOT, DR EDWARD, 39, 44, 49, 54, 
55, 57> 74, 185, 186 

Talbot, Mrs Edward, 42, 49, 258 

Taunton Commission (1864-65), 33-34 

Tawney, Alderman Miss L. S., 259 

Taylor, A. J. P., 26, 80, 116, 223 

Taylor, Susette, 74 

Temple, Frederick, Archbishop of Can- 
terbury, 24 

Terms and Vacations (Lodge), 95, 96, 

Theobald, Courtenay, 187 

Theological degrees, late granting of, 
151, 191 

Thomas, Margaret Haig (Viscountess 
Rhondda), 119, 120, 250 

Thompson, Maude, 180 

Thompson, Sylvia (Mrs T. D. Luling), 
177, 251 

Thomson, Dr Arthur, 149 

Thorndike, Darne Sybil, 258 

Todd, Constance M. (Rev. C Coltman), 

Todd, Robert Bentley, TOO 

Tomlinson, Mr (Cambridge Local secre- 
tary, London Centre), 32, 33 

Toynbee, Arnold, 38-39, 47, 63 

Toynbee, Mrs Arnold (Charlotte At- 
wood), 47, 74, 141, 1 86, 258 

Tractarian Movement, 22-23, 2 4 

Trevelyan, Gertrude Eileen, 176 
Trevelyan, Katharine, 177 
Trinity College, Dublin, 109 
Tripos, Cambridge, opened to women, 
66-67, 7 

University Extension movement, 72, 95 
University Gazette, 145, 150, 152, 172, 


University Labour Club, 189, 190, 226 
University Liberal Club, 226 
University Operatic Society, 189 
University Reform Bill (1854), 23 
University Wometis Review, 233, 236 

Vaughan, Dame Janet Maria, 57, 101, 

145, 207-208, 227 
Veale, Sir Douglas, 219 
Vernon, Margaret, 226#. 
Vice-Chancellor, women eligible as, 238 
Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, 

50*2., 61-62, 68, 70, 81 
Votes for women, 111-112, 140-141, 



Wadham, Dorothy, 22. 

Wallace, Doreen, 144, 251 

Walls, Mrs Hugh, 260 

Walton Manor, 59-60, 92 

Ward, Barbara Mary (Lady Jackson), 
187, 223, 253, 256 

Ward, Humphry, 43, 50^., 66 

Ward, Mrs Humphry (Mary Augusta 
Arnold), 22, 58, 66, 101, in, 155, 
163, 258; and Lectures for Ladies, 
41-45, 46; anti-suffragette, 44, 130, 
255*2.; on Somerville Council, 50, 60 

Wardale, Edith Elizabeth, 200-201 

Warren, Sir Herbert, 106 

Warren, M. E. (Mrs Lee), 218, 239 

Webb, Beatrice, 44 

Wedgwood, C. Veronica, 177, 253 

Weldon, Mrs, 259 

Westfield College, London, 196 

White, Eirene (Lloyd Jones), 177, 253 

Whiteman, Elizabeth A. O., 247 

Whytlaw, Jean Langlands, 200 

Wimelmina, Princess of the Netherlands, 

Wilkinson, Ellen, 256 

Williams, Right Rev. H. R, 168/7. 

Williams, Ivy, 73, 156, 176, 249 

Williams, Jennifer, 188 

Winant, John, 205 

Wolff, Fraulein Brigitte, 184 

Wollstonecraft, Mary, 24 

Woman Suffrage, 1 11-112, 140-141, 146 



Women of My Time, The (Courtney), 43, 
Women Students' Property Committee, 

Women Students' Suffrage Society, 112 
Women's Appointments Committee, 

229, 235 

"Women's First" exam, 94, *. 
Women's Intercollegiate Debating So- 
ciety, 73 

Women's Land Army, 137 
Women's Royal Naval Service, 137 
Women's Social and Political Union, 141 
"Women's Statute," 148-153, 160, 162 
Woodham-Smith, Cecil, 145, 251 
Woods, Margaret, 46 
Woodward, Professor Sir E. L., 160, 222 
Woolf, Virginia, 119, 174 
Woolley, Sir Leonard, 209 

Woolley, Lady (Katharine E. Menke), 
209, 239 

Wordsworth, Dr Christopher, Bishop 
of Lincoln, 55 

Wordsworth, Dame Elizabeth, 25, 36, 
43, 44, 53, 54, 1^ 107, 126 166, 182, 
211,217, 218; and Lectures for .Ladies, 
46, 47; first Principal of Lady Mar- 
garet Hall, 55-58, 72, 75, 86, 94, 120, 
125; character of, 56-57, 125, 185; 
founds St Hugh's HaU, 77-78, 80; 
Hon. M.A., 153; created D.B.E., 175 ; 
death, 185 

Wordsworth, John, 44, 46, 55 

Workers' Educational Association, 112 

Wright, Mrs Elizabeth M., 71-72 

Wrong, Rosalind Mary, 247 

YONGE, CHARLOTTE M., 26, 35, 50, 79 

Vera Britain, M.A.(Oxon), D,Litt.(U.S.A.), 
was bominNewcastle-under-Lyme, England 
(of which her ancestor, Richard Brittain, was 
mayor in 1741), and educated at St Monica's 
SchooI 3 Surrey, and Somerville College, 
Oxford, Besides The Women at Oxford, she 
is the author of 22 books, including: 
Testament of Youth, Testament of Friendship, 
Honorable Estate, Born 1925, In the Steps of 
John Bunyan, Lady into Woman, She has also 
written innumerable articles in newspapers 
and magazines in Britain, Canada, U.S.A., 
and India, and since 1934 has conducted 
extensive lecture tours in U.S.A., Canada, 
Holland, Scandinavia, Germany, India and 
Pakistan. Her lifelong interests are reflected 
in her works and in her various appoint- 
ments. She is Vice-President of the Society 
of Woman Writers and Journalists, Vice- 
President of the Women's International 
League of Peace and Freedom, President of 
the Married Women's Association, Chairman 
of Directors, Peace News Ltd., Fellow of the 
Commonwealth Society and Fellow of the 
Royal Society of Literature. Vera Brittam is 
married to Professor George Catlin, well- 
known political scientist and philosopher, 
and has one son and one daughter.